Verizon Wireless Won't Carry Windows Phone 7 At Launch

A Verizon Wireless spokesperson on Thursday told Bloomberg the carrier doesn't plan to offer Windows Phone 7 devices this year, although it "will probably" release a Windows Phone 7 device in 2011.

Perhaps this explains why AT&T has been crowing for months about being Microsoft's "premier partner" for Windows Phone 7 in the U.S. AT&T has never divulged the benefits this status conveys, while Microsoft has talked vaguely about allowing the carrier to differentiate its offerings.

Another possibility is that Verizon is still stewing over the disastrous release of Microsoft's Kin, the social networking-infused mobile devices that failed to set mobile consumers' hearts aflutter and ended up being unceremoniously canned just weeks after its launch.

Microsoft and Verizon insist that everything's hunky dory in their mobile partnership, but as the exclusive carrier for Kin, Verizon has already had a front row seat to one major Microsoft mobile product flameout and may want to avoid risking a repeat. "I can't help but think Verizon is a bit shy about Microsoft mobile products at the moment," said Clinton Fitch, a Dallas-based Microsoft Windows Mobile MVP (Most Valuable Professional).

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Another scenario is that Verizon knows it's getting the iPhone and is well aware of the AT&T subscriber influx -- some might say stampede -- such a development would trigger. With the iPhone and a stable of hot Android devices, Verizon might not have a pressing need to add Windows Phone 7 to the mix.

"Operators generally don't want too many phones," said Allen Nogee, an analyst with In-Stat in Scottsdale, Ariz. "The worst thing you can do is confuse people when they're in the store, because they end up leaving without a phone if there are too many choices."

In any event, not having Verizon on board is troublesome for Microsoft, which needs as much market coverage as it can get for Windows Phone 7. Given Microsoft's trailing position in the mobile space, there's a palpable urgency around the Windows Phone 7 launch, and the software giant doesn’t have the luxury of letting a market grow organically around the devices.

Having Verizon on board with Windows Phone 7 would also have been a psychological coup for Microsoft, since Verizon and Google are locked in close partnership with Android that has generated several Droid successes and appears ready to spawn many more.

Microsoft will still be offering Windows Phone 7 smartphones through three of the four major U.S. carriers, and many industry analysts are impressed with what Windows Phone 7 brings to the table in terms of features and functionality. Still, the lukewarm enthusiasm Verizon is showing toward the forthcoming OS has to be a source of concern for Microsoft as it looks to rekindle its once-booming mobile business.