Windows Phone 7 Shortages Hit Carriers In Europe, Asia

As Microsoft gears up to launch Windows Phone 7 in the U.S. next week, handsets are in short supply in countries where Windows Phone 7 devices are already available.

In the U.K., where Windows Phone 7 devices went on sale Oct. 21, Orange is grappling with supply shortages for the HTC 7 Mozart and the Samsung Omnia 7, the U.K.-based blog Mobile Today reported last week. Orange is issuing vouchers for about $32 to customers that pre-ordered Windows Phone 7 devices but have yet to obtain them, according to the report.

The shortages raise a puzzling question: What the heck do Orange and AT&T get for being named Microsoft's "premier" partners for Windows Phone 7? This status has been ill-defined, although that hasn't stopped AT&T from preening over it. At the Mobile World Congress in February Microsoft said it would work with the two carriers to differentiate their Windows Phone 7 devices through "unique software and services" on their networks.

On Monday, Business Insider speculated that the Windows Phone 7 device shortages stem from scarce supply of AMOLED screens, a key smartphone component that handset makers have had trouble keeping in stock in recent months.

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Meanwhile, O2 in Germany has had trouble keeping up with demand for HTC's HD7, and Australian carrier Telstra has similar issues with its HTC 7 Mozart, the blog Digitimes reported Wednesday.

Next: Genuine shortage or just a marketing ploy?

The cynical view holds that Microsoft is allowing just a trickle of devices onto the market so as to create the artificial appearance of scarcity. But given how crucial Windows Phone 7 is to Microsoft's ability to compete in the mobile space, there's no way the company would engage in such shenanigans.

In the U.S., Microsoft is selling Windows Phone 7 through AT&T and T-Mobile, and HTC, Samsung, LG and Dell are building handsets. AT&T on Nov. 8 will begin selling the Windows Phone 7-powered Samsung Focus for $199 with a two year service contract. AT&T's other two Windows Phone 7 devices, the LG Quantum and HTC Surround, will arrive later this month.

Microsoft plans to offer Windows Phone 7 devices through 60 carrier partners in 30 countries worldwide by the end of the year.