updated 10:15 pm EST, Tue February 15, 2011
Motorola and Verizon say WP7 not a contender
Microsoft faced a symbolic wall on Tuesday as both Motorola and Verizon downplayed the prospects for Windows Phone 7. Motorola software and services VP Christy Wyatt said to "never say never" in an interview but that it wasn't on the slate for the foreseeable future. The long delays in getting a truly modern OS pushed Motorola to go to the ready-to-go Android platform, but even now Microsoft's newly tightened app and UI controls were antithetical to Motorola's heavily customized smartphone strategy, she told PC World.
"We would like an opportunity to create unique value and we don't feel we could with a closed platform," Wyatt said. Most Motorola phones have some variant of the Motoblur or Blur interfaces, which stress social networking.
Simultaneously, Verizon CTO Tony Melone in a separate discussion didn't expect much from the OS. He wanted a viable alternative to an Apple and Google duopoly, but he didn't expect rapid sales. Windows Phone 7 is still on deck, but it so far would have trouble cracking into the market.
"I still have doubts whether Microsoft will get the traction [it's] hoping for with Windows Phone 7," he said.
Part of the dilemma came from the difficulty of breaking through in the current environment. Even with its Microsoft deal, a Verizon phone using a given platform would have to be "really compelling" to have a chance. Verizon didn't "need" WP7, and its support for Android, BlackBerry and the iPhone was enough.
He admitted that the BlackBerry was on the downslide but that he expected a "rebound." A wave of new phones like the Curve Touch due this year is known to be putting RIM back into competition with faster processors and touchscreen devices apart from its flagships.
Malone noted alongside the WP7 comments that bringing in the iPhone and downplaying Android was a way of avoiding becoming a "dumb pipe." Carriers have routinely expressed worries that mobile Internet access on smartphones has turned them into raw connection suppliers that couldn't try to profit on third-party services. Google has emphasized the web on Android hardware to promote searches and often has services that obviate the need for a traditional carrier app altogether.
Wyatt in turn added that Motorola had learned lessons from its repeatedly delayed Android upgrades and would be faster this year. It had been split up by carrier and country in the past and took a long time to approve separately for each network. Motorola has also had problems upgrading certain devices at all, giving up on the Cliq XT after the hardware just couldn't keep up with the year-old OS.