It seems that the major U.S. mobile operators are ready to start offering Windows Phone 8 handsets -- and not just to be polite to Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) and any other WP8 smartphone producers. Executives from three carriers were almost falling over themselves at the Mobile Future Forward conference in Seattle to offer praise and support for Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) mobile operating system.
Glenn Lurie, the man at AT&T (NYSE: T ) who checks out all new devices before they're put on the carrier's shelves, said, "I'm bullish on Windows 8 ... it's hard to bet against a tablet that does what your PC and desktop will do."
Brad Duea, a VP at T-Mobile USA, sees a lot of potential in Windows Phone 8, saying, "it's exciting."
Agreeing with Lurie was Sprint Nextel's (NYSE: S ) president of network operations, Steve Elfman. But Elfman tempered that enthusiasm with this caveat: "Adoption is key." By that he means that WP8 will need to power a lot of phones and tablets before it can become a true competitor to the iPhone and Google's Android-powered phones.
Verizon began -- publicly, anyway -- this increased carrier interest in Windows Phone 8 when it told The Wall Street Journal last week it would grow its lineup of Windows Phone 8 handsets. A Verizon spokeswoman soon after confirmed that the carrier had an agreement with Nokia but wouldn't go into further details.
Nokia is seen as the primary producer of Windows-Phone-driven phones, though Samsung recently jumped into the WP8 pool, too, in a rather splashy way.
Help wanted: a third smartphone ecosystem
As just about everyone must have heard by now, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is launching its next iteration of the iPhone, an event that is expected to cause quite a spike in iPhone sales. On the surface, this must seem like a license to print money for the mobile carriers, with thousands waiting in line to become one of the first to get the latest iPhone.
Alas, because of the high subsidies the carriers must pay Apple for the right to stock the iPhone, each sale means profit margins are shaved just a bit more. Can you imagine the kind of pricing power Apple would have if it weren't for the Android phones?
But the carriers would like a third viable smartphone ecosystem to put more competitive pricing pressure on the smartphone producers, hence this statement from Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam last week, according to CNET: "The carriers are beginning to coalesce around the need for a third ecosystem. ... [O]ver the next 12 months I think ... you will start to see one emerge."
With the recent statements, it looks as if the first-tier U.S. carriers could be throwing their resources behind Windows Phone 8 as that third ecosystem.
If Windows Phone 8 does take off, it could be huge for Microsoft. The Redmond, Wash., company needs to redefine itself for the mobile-computing world. Can it once again be the 900-pound gorilla of the tech world, or will it forever remain in Apple's shadow? This Motley Fool premium report will help you decided whether Microsoft is worthy of your investing dollars -- or not. Get it today!