Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 will appear first on GSM-based cellular networks such as AT&T's, before being available on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) carriers-including Verizon-in the first half of 2011. That follows earlier reports that Windows Phone 7 will not appear on Verizon until sometime next year.
"In developing Windows Phone 7, we are placing high-quality customer experiences above all else," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a Sept. 17 email to eWEEK. "In keeping with this goal, Microsoft chose to focus on delivering a great GSM version to the world first, and then a great CDMA version in the first half of 2011."
This week, Microsoft released the final version of its Windows Phone Developer Tools, which it hopes developers will use to create a wide variety of applications for its smartphone platform. Twitter, Netflix, OpenTable, Flixster and Travelocity are some of the higher-profile companies planning to have apps available for Windows Phone 7 upon its release.
Unlike the Apple iPhone and Google Android, whose user interfaces offer grid-like screens of individual apps, Windows Phone 7 aggregates both Web content and applications into a series of subject-specific "Hubs" such as "Games" and "Office." Whether Microsoft's model will be popular enough to reverse the company's long mobile market-share slide is an open question, but the company is likely taking no chances: according to Deutsche Bank analyst Jonathan Goldberg, Microsoft's marketing tab for the smartphone platform's initial release could top $400 million, on top of the already-substantial development costs.
Microsoft remains tight-lipped about the number of Windows Phone 7 smartphones available during the launch, which is rumored to be taking place in October. AT&T and T-Mobile are likely candidates for the first devices, given their respective customer base and reliance on the GSM standard. Microsoft could possibly take heart in the case of its mobile arch-rival Apple, whose iPhone achieved its initial success solely on AT&T.
The relationship between Microsoft and Verizon could also be strained after this summer's Kin fiasco. The Kin social-networking phones, targeted at a younger demographic, died a quick marketplace death despite Microsoft's marketing push. Some pundits were quick to blame what they saw as Verizon's prohibitively high monthly plans for its demise.
Nonetheless: "Our relationship with Microsoft is solid," Verizon spokesperson Brenda Raney told Bloomberg Sept. 16.
The question now is how many Windows Phone 7 devices will be available at launch, and if the lack of CDMA-based carriers will hurt their uptake among both consumers and businesses.