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Microsoft sees its chance in Googlephone

When partners defect, we'll pounce

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Microsoft has once again questioned Google's mobile strategy, insisting that Mountain View will have trouble attracting - and keeping - OS partners now that the company is selling its very own Googlephone.

Speaking with Bloomberg this past week, Redmond mobile boss Robbie Bach predicted that Google's decision to serve as both OS provider and handset seller will end up providing an opening for Microsoft.

"Doing both in the way they are trying to do both is actually very, very difficult,” Bach said. “Google’s announcement sends a signal where they’re going to place their commitment. That will create some opportunities for us and we’ll pursue them."

On Tuesday, Google began selling the long-rumored Nexus One from its own web storefront under its own brand name. Clearly, two Google partners believe wholeheartedly in the undertaking: HTC and T-Mobile, who have partnered with the web giant since the earliest days its Android operating system. HTC manufactured the device, and though the GSM phone can be purchased unlocked, Google also gives you the option of purchasing in tandem with T-Mobile wireless service.

But Google's other partnerships are a bit more complicated.

According to report from GigaOm, Verizon and Motorola are "particularly miffed" at the arrival of the Googlephone, after spending $100m to promote their Android-based Droid handset. But both - along with Vodafone - have agreed to join Google's online store in the near future.

Nonetheless, Bach says that some partners could decide to leave Android in the wake of Google's move, fearing that the company will give priority to its own product. And that's where Microsoft intends to leap in. Though there have long been rumors of a Microsoftphone, Redmond says it has no intention of offering one, insisting it will focus on supporting other phone makers and carriers with its Windows Mobile OS.

"Over time you have to decide whether your approach is with the partners or more like an Apple approach that is more about Apple," he said. "Google’s is an interesting step. We’ll see how people react."

He has a point - though we question whether Microsoft has what it takes to nab Google's leftovers. Unlike Android, Windows Mobile costs money. And it's rubbish. ®

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