Microsoft Stages Mock Funerals For iPhone, Blackberry

Microsoft has been whistling past the graveyard quite a bit lately with regard to its mobile strategy, but now it's actually invoking funereal imagery to show its confidence in Windows Phone 7.

To celebrate the Sept. 1 release to manufacturing of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft's long-awaited makeover for the plodding relic known as Windows Mobile, company employees last Friday marched through the Redmond campus adorned in graveyard regalia and staged mock funerals -- complete with hearses -- for Apple's iPhone and RIM's Blackberry.

The message? That Windows Phone 7, which Microsoft plans to unveil at a media event in New York City on Oct. 11, is going to "bury" the mobile competition. Microsoft employees even performed a surprisingly well choreographed dance routine to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," perhaps to illustrate the idea that their company is about to claw its way out of its mobile grave and wreak havoc on an unsuspecting mobile market.

Although Microsoft's goal here was to have some fun and attract some publicity, its suggestion that Windows Phone 7 is going exert a "Night Of the Living Dead"-type of effect on mobile competitors is frightfully bold. Gartner expects Microsoft's share of the mobile phone market to continue shrinking even after Windows Phone 7 hits the market, from 4.7 percent this year to 3.9 percent by 2014.

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Apple, meanwhile, is dealing with heavy demand for the iPhone 4, which hasn't been dampened by the 'AntennaGate' issue. Microsoft may have a point with RIM, to which Windows Phone 7 is much more of a near term threat .

Interestingly, Microsoft employees, in their faux death march, didn't include a hearse for Google's Android OS, which has been seeing the most rapid growth over the course of this year and appears set to continue growing for the foreseeable future.

Microsoft is reportedly preparing to drum up demand for Windows Phone 7 devices, which are due this holiday season, with a massive marketing campaign costing in the neighborhood of $1 billion, and possibly much more.

Although reviews of Windows Phone 7 have been largely positive, Microsoft isn't on the radar of most consumer smartphone users, and the company will have to bring the full weight of its marketing muscle to bear in order to change this perception.