iPhone Mates Microsoft and Verizon

Pardon me if I don’t get excited about a rumored Verizon-Microsoft partnership to develop a touch screen cell phone that challenges the  iPhone-AT&T partnership. Microsoft doesn’t have much of a track record here in considering what the Zune has done to the popularity of the iPod. That’s nothing except reinforce Apple’s reputation for superior engineering, design, marketing, sales and performance.

Verizon is crazy to bet on Microsoft’s consumer device prowess  even though it’s frustrated with archrival AT&T’s lock on the iPhone. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Verizon and Microsoft are in talks to develop an answer to the wildly popular iPhone (I have an iPod touch and love it. As for a phone, I prefer Verizon service to AT&T and getting an iPhone is not enough to lure me away. That said, I sure would like to see Verizon carry the iPhone.).

The WSJ says work on the device and software that goes with it is being designed by staffers from Danger, Inc., which developed software for the popular Tmobile Sidekick which always felt a bit cheap to me. Danger was bought my Microsoft last year. I never used a Sidekick and talked my forever-texting daughter out of getting one. No way was I going to convert to Tmobile.

Verizon, says the WSJ, was in talks with Apple about getting the iPhone given that AT&T’s exclusive on it ends next year after an initial extension went into force last year. And AT&T is seeking another year-long extension after selling more than 17 million iPhones  during the past two years.

Certainly, the exclusive makes life very predictable for Apple and lucrative for AT&T. The bobbing and weaving in this negotiation is far from over. Apple has to be behaving like Scott Boras negotiating baseball phenom Mark Teixeira’s free agency, but Verizon could still end up with the iPhone.

Really folks, the AT&T exclusive  amounts to a restraint of trade and I blame Apple for that. If it’s developing insanely great technology, why wouldn’t it want it in as many hands as possible? Ahhh, the lowly consumer and business user lose again.

As for any forthcoming phone and software platform from Microsoft, I welcome the competition and let’s hope it’s a smash hit so AT&T ends up eating its exclusive that has denied the iPhone to millions. Maybe, just maybe Microsoft will come up with that perfect broadband fueled netbook-handset hybrid I’ve been writing about and praying for.

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