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Reuters yesterday reported that Motorola was bringing a Microsoft-powered smartphone to market later this year. This would represent a major win for Redmond, which has failed to sign a Tier One handset vendor for its software platform despite lobbying hard for six years. And Motorola is a prize indeed: it's the world's second largest phone manufacturer.

However, senior Motorola sources indicate that although the company has had a Microsoft phone project for some time, but no decision has been taken to bring the model to market. Officially the company's position is full square behind Linux/Java, but it will build to order if the carrier so wishes. So that's something less than a ringing strategic endorsement for Microsoft's smartphone platform and equally, less than a pledge of alliance to Symbian, either. Motorola joined Symbian at the last minute before its launch five years ago, but has been something of a sleeping shareholder in recent years. It has yet to bring a Symbian-powered smartphone to market although a 3G model, code-named Paragon, is expected to reach the shops by the end of the year.

(Paragon uses the Symbian UIQ pen-based user interface licensed which debuted in the SonyEricsson P800 phone. UIQ is a project with a very strong SonyEricsson flavor, emerging from the Ronneby lab which Ericsson spun off to Symbian.)

Nokia has been licensing two smartphone platforms to anyone who wants them, but not surprisingly, Motorola and SonyEricsson think they can get by without depending on technology from the market leader.

Motorola's decision to back Linux is a win for its APAC division, and executives were bullish back in February (see Motorola gambles big on Linux, Sinocapitalism) However the important dynamic here is that any alternative gives carriers bargaining room with Nokia. Carriers want customers to think of them, and right now Pope Juha will take any manufacturer he can find. ®

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