Verizon eyes Microsoft push, Windows phones for holidays

NEW YORK Thu Apr 19, 2012 3:02pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless plans to put its marketing weight behind Microsoft Corp's next mobile phone software to help develop a strong competitor to Apple Inc and Google Inc, according to the chief financial officer of Verizon Communications.

Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon and Vodafone Group Plc, already sells the Apple iPhone and many devices based on Google's Android software.

But Verizon's CFO Fran Shammo said the company wants a third strong software competitor in the mobile market where operators pay hefty subsidies for smartphones like the iPhone.

"We're really looking at the Windows Phone 8.0 platform because that's a differentiator. We're working with Microsoft on it," Shammo said in an interview following Verizon's earnings conference call.

Microsoft has not said anything publicly about the next update of its mobile software, but Windows Phone 8 -- codenamed 'Apollo' -- is expected on phones this holiday season.

The world's largest software maker has been working most heavily with carrier AT&T Inc on its latest Windows phones, but still only has 2 percent of the global smartphone market, according to research firm Gartner.

Shammo said that Verizon Wireless expects to have phones based on the next Microsoft software in time for the 2012 end of year holiday shopping season.

The executive suggested that Verizon could play a similar role with Microsoft as it did with Google's Android.

Verizon Wireless marketing played a big part in boosting the popularity of Android phones from manufacturers including Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics and HTC Corp. Verizon's Droid brand even managed to give a struggling Motorola a new lease of life.

Nokia is Microsoft's closest mobile partner as the Finnish company has bet its smartphone business on the U.S. company's software. But Nokia's fortunes have fallen sharply since it took up with Microsoft.

While Samsung and HTC both already sell phones based on Microsoft software, Motorola Mobility's future plans are uncertain as it is in the process of being bought by Google.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew. Additional reporting by Bill Rigby in Seattle, editing by Dave Zimmerman)

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