Microsoft and Motorola May Hook Up on Windows Phone 7

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is on a whirlwind tour of Europe before next Monday's launch of Windows Phone 7 and, always outspoken, he's been holding forth on a number of topics.

However, none have been quite as surprising as statements Wednesday in Germany when Ballmer said that, despite suing Motorola (NYSE: MOT) for patent infringement last week regarding its use of Android, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) would not be averse to working with the handset maker on Windows Phone 7 devices.

Perhaps nearly as surprising is that Sanjay Jha, the co-CEO of Motorola, also said Wednesday that the handset maker would be willing to work with Microsoft on Windows Phone 7 devices. Both stories were reported by the Wall Street Journal online edition.

"I am open to finding ways to work with Microsoft ... but it has to be a compelling offering," Jha reportedly said.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday in London, the WSJreported that Ballmer moved to counter stories from last week that the company and its hardware partners will not have Windows 7-based slate computers out before the middle of next year.

"You’ll see new slates with Windows on them. You’ll see them this Christmas," Ballmer reportedly said during a speech at the London School of Economics, Reuters reported.

In fact, Microsoft officials claim that there are at least two slate computers running Windows 7 on the market already -- one available in the U.S. from Toshiba and one in China from Hanvon, with another in the U.S. from Dell promised by the end of the year. HP has said it also has a Windows 7 slate in work but hasn't said when it will be released.

"This year, one of the most important things that we will do in the smart device category is really push forward with Windows 7-based slates and with Windows 7 phones. This is a terribly important area for us," Ballmer said last July in his keynote at the company's annual Worldwide Partner Conference.

Two weeks later at Microsoft's annual financial analysts meeting, Ballmer reiterated those statements, saying that slates are "job one."

Ballmer did not elaborate on his statements, Tuesday. However, he is expected to show off Windows 7 slates as part of Microsoft's launch of Windows Phone 7 on Monday in New York. The event will be webcast around the world.

"We see slates as an opportunity to expand the PC market and create choice for customers. We're working with our hardware partners to bring the full value of Windows to new slate designs," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

Ballmer and Ralph de la Vega, CEO and president of AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) , which is the number 2 U.S. operator, are scheduled to speak at Monday's launch event. Other wireless operators, notably Verizon Wireless and Sprint, are not listed on the press invitations.

Microsoft revealed in mid-September that the first release of Windows Phone 7 would only work on Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) wireless networks.

Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. operator, and Sprint, which is in third-place, run on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks, which Microsoft says it won't support until next year.

In the meantime, there is no word so far from Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile, the fourth-largest operator in the U.S., which also uses GSM. However, gadget enthusiast site Engadget Sunday said it received an invitation from Microsoft that did, in fact, mention T-Mobile as attending Monday's launch.

The Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on T-Mobile's attendance.

Monday's Windows Phone 7 launch event will be webcast here.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.


Microsoft, Windows Phone 7, AT&T, Motorola, slates