February 15, 2011, 11:53 AM — Ever since Microsoft unveiled its Windows Phone 7 mobile OS last fall, media coverage and online debate have split into two basic tracks: 1) The horse-race, in which writers assess WP7's chances of competing in the smartphone market with the iPhone and Android devices, and 2) a review of the product itself, in which case the reviewer frequently is impressed with Redmond's new mobile OS.
Typically accompanying this coverage are reader comments ranging from the usual Microsoft-bashing to spirited defenses of WP7 from owners who can't understand why people won't give Redmond's smartphone a chance.
The answer to that is simple: The market can't wait around forever. And I'm not just talking about consumers who are in the market now for a smartphone, the ones who might not be inclined to stay on the sidelines for another six to nine months because Steve Ballmer said at some tech conference that Microsoft was working on something really cool. (Only Apple has the power to freeze buyers with hints of greatness to come.)
I'm talking about manufacturers, the companies that need to plan out their product releases so they'll have, you know, products to sell when consumers wander into a Verizon or AT&T store eager to try out smartphones. And that's Microsoft's problem, according to a Motorola executive quoted by PC World at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Christy Wyatt, corporate vice president of software and services product management for Motorola, explained that the device manufacturer initially considered making devices running on other platforms:
"But there were a bunch of things that we believed about Microsoft that ended up not being true, mostly about what functionality it would have in what period of time," she said. When it turned out that Microsoft's delivery of Windows Phone, its revamped mobile OS, would be much later than Motorola expected, the company pursued Android exclusively, Wyatt said.
"I don't envision us using Microsoft. I would never say never but it's not something we're entertaining now," she said.
Now, of course, Microsoft has found a partner in Nokia, which is adopting WP7 as its smartphone platform. But that new partnership may not result in a product shipping until next year. How far behind in the smartphone market will Microsoft and Nokia be by then?
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.