BARCELONA, Spain--The pact between Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK), in which Nokia will use Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone platform, has been one of the dominant themes of this year's Mobile World Congress trade show here. Yet two key U.S. companies, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI), appear extremely cool to Nokia and Microsoft's potential in the smartphone market.
In an interview with CNet, Verizon Communications CTO Tony Melone said that it was important for the smartphone ecosystem to have more than two dominant operating systems--Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) rival iOS--but said he was skeptical Microsoft could be that third horse in the race. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has maintained throughout the week here that reason Nokia chose to partner with Microsoft was to give operators that third option.
"I do want a strong third OS out there," Melone said. "It gives the carriers more flexibility and balances the interests of all the parties. But I still have doubts whether Microsoft will get the traction they are hoping for with Windows Phone 7."
Melone said that even if Nokia courted Verizon, it would face an uphill climb with the carrier. "If you look at our device pipeline for 2011, we have very strong relationships with LG, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, and now Apple," he said. "So I think it would take a really compelling device from Nokia or any new vendor to break in. It doesn't mean that it can't happen, but it would have to be really good."
Motorola, which has hitched its fortunes to Android and is also a strong partner of Verizon's, was dismissive of Microsoft's potential. "I don't envision us using Microsoft. I would never say never but it's not something we're entertaining now," Christy Wyatt, Motorola's corporate vice president of software and services product management, said here, according to IDG News Service. Wyatt said that Microsoft was too slow in getting its platform to market and that Motorola does not like the fact WP7 is not an open-source operating system.
Nokia, meanwhile, is maintaining its position that its deal with Microsoft gives it great flexibility. In an interview with Phone Scoop, Niklas Savander, Nokia's Markets head, confirmed that Nokia has nearly unlimited freedom to customize the platform, but that it will avoid making changes that might delay any OS updates for Nokia customers. He said Nokia will focus on high-level customizations that are easy to bring to the platform as well as deeper changes developed in partnership with Microsoft that can be made available to other Windows Phone licensees.
In a separate interview earlier in the week with FierceWireless and other publications, Nokia CTO Rich Green said that Nokia will most likely stick to the hardware specifications Microsoft has laid for the platform for its first releases and will not modify the platform. He said Nokia will stick to this plan so that it can get its first Windows Phone releases into the market as soon as possible. Nokia Chairman Jorma Ollila said in an interview with Finnish broadcaster YLE that Nokia's first Windows Phone devices will be out in 2012, according to Reuters.
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