Windows Phone 7: Early sales figures should be the least of anyone's concerns

I care less about Microsoft executives' continued refusal to share shipment number for Windows Phone 7 than I do about the company's (hopefully reversible) decision to prevent partners from porting the phone OS to slates.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

I care less about Microsoft executives' continued refusal to go public with shipment number for Windows Phone 7 than I do about the company's (hopefully reversible) decision preventing partners from porting the phone operating system to slates and tablets.

At the "Dive Into Mobile" conference this week, Microsoft  corporate vice president and director of Windows Phone Program Management Joe Belfiore refused multiple times to provide an update on Windows Phone 7 sales. If I were Belfiore, I wouldn't be sharing numbers, either, since -- at least in my opinion, though not according to Microsoft's party line -- Windows Phone 7 is basically in soft-launch mode.

In the U.S., there are very few models of phones available on only two carriers (AT&T and T-Mobile). The first CDMA Windows Phone 7 models from Verizon and Sprint are sounding like early 2011 deliverables. Lack of stock and delays of models like the Dell Venue Pro (which Dell resolved a couple weeks ago) have undoubtedly hurt WP7 sales, as well.

However, I still find myself as incredulous as Engadget's Editor Joshua Topolsky, who asked Belfiore during his on-stage Q&A about Microsoft's decision to bar partners from shipping Windows Phone OS on tablets and slates.

You can’t possibly be this blind that Windows 7 isn’t going to work on tablets in the way you want it. Is that really the strategy?" asked Topolsky.

Belfiore reportedly said that while the "announced" strategy is that Windows 7 and its successors will be the operating system that Microsoft offers its partners for licensing for tablets and slates, "the company will evaluate that going forward."

Hopefully the "evaluation" period on that decision is sooner rather than later. An HTML 5-compliant Internet Explorer 9 running on Oak Trail processor-based Windows 7 slates will make Windows 7 slates more appealing than are the current generation hitting the market now. But a Windows Phone OS update that provided greater HTML 5/Silverlight/Flash support would be even more so, to my mind. Plus, offering the Windows Phone OS on slates would probably boost Microsoft's phone OS developer numbers further, and I'd argue, not at the expense of Windows.

Speaking of Windows Phone 7, there were a couple of other news and rumor tidbits of interest this week.

On the news front: Microsoft has changed its decision not to pay royalties until February 2011 to Windows Phone 7 app developers (after much developer outcry). Now developers will get their first checks in January instead. Microsoft officials said this week there are now more than 4,000 published Windows Phone 7 applications and 18,000 registered developers.

On the rumor front, there was word from Paul Thurrott that the first Verizon Windows Phone 7 model will be an HTC 7 Trophy, and that it may be out in January, 2011. January also is the rumored (and believable) timeframe for the first, promised update from Microsoft to the Windows Phone 7 operating system. This won't be a major update, the Redmondians have said, but it will deliver copy-and-paste functionality. WinRumours is hearing a second Windows Phone 7 operating system update may be on tap for February at the Mobile World Congress event. (Or maybe these two updates are really one and the same, with the January one delayed until February?)

I continue to hear from my contacts that there is a very real fear out there that Microsoft might "Kin" WP7 by pulling the plug if early sales are disappointing. I seriously doubt this is the case, as I've heard those joining the Windows Phone 7 team (at a high level) were asked to make a five-year commitment to the project. Microsoft isn't averse to throwing money at a market until it makes a dent (see Xbox, Bing). Whether early Windows Phone 7 sales have been good, bad or ugly, Microsoft is in this one for the long haul.

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