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Orange has selected Motorola to supply two handsets for its Signature own-brand line.

The Motorola V500 and V600 handsets will "include flip screens, Bluetooth, integrated cameras, full-color browsers, quad-band functionality, Java gaming and photo messaging", RCR Wireless reports. Orange will start flogging the new handsets from September.

Essentially, the Moto phones are case mods built around standard modules. They will incorporate Orange menus and Orange apps. But Motorola says it will build a phone "from the ground up" for Orange next year. The Guardian says the deal is a blow to Microsoft ambitions. We don't see how - the Moto handsets are different phones for different customer segments.

Orange is committing to stocking Tanager smartphones, the latest iteration of Microsoft's phone OS, again under its own SPV brand. Orange is, admittedly, Microsoft's most important smartphone customer by some degree, but other big players will follow suit, albeit at a leisurely pace.

According to our sources Motorola is readying the launch of its own MS-powered smartphone. If this is correct, Microsoft will have won an important endorsement from the world's second biggest mobile phone maker.

Goodbye Moto

Moto's willingness to sacrifice branding for the sake of market share is unusual for a big company with a big brand. Nokia, by contrast, refuses to resell phones under the network operators, restricting itself to occasional tweaks such as, say, an extra button for one-touch access to Vodafone Live. The idea of a non-Nokia interface on a Nokia phone would be sacrilege. Fashion status and the Nokia menuing system lies behind its huge success, especially in Europe. It's simply too much hassle for many to learn how to use a phone with another menu.

Nokia's refusal to play branding ball with the network operators is precisely the reason why Moto and other phone makers are willing to co-operate. Nokia with 50 per cent of the European market has nothing to gain: Motorola and others have nothing to lose.

According to Motorola, European operators have been slower than their American and Japanese counterparts to adopt own-brand phones.

"I think this model (of cooperation with telecoms operators) is certainly transferable to Europe," Ron Garriques, general manager of Motorola's European mobile phone unit, told Reuters.

"In the end we realise that service providers like Orange own the customers. That is very different from some vendors which think they own the customer."

This is, as Reuters notes, a thinly veiled reference to Nokia. But do the service providers really own the customers? This is doubtful, so far as the mass-market is concerned. Here, the customers are driven by phone, phone, phone, not network, network, network. Nokia has little to fear, just yet. ®

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