Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is getting closer to telling us what the new Windows Phone operating system can do and when we can get it.

On Oct. 11, Mr. Softy will announce these details, according to tech news site Pocket-Lint. Later that month, we might get to see some actual phones. How generous.

Yeah, I'm being facetious here. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) are running away with the smartphone market while Microsoft drags its feet. Kudos to Microsoft for not missing the critical holiday season, but it's already pretty late in the game.

I realize that Microsoft is walking a fine line between rushing out unfinished products and missing the window of opportunity to get a foothold in the market. But if Google has shown us anything with its Android platform, it would be that it's OK to sell software that's a little rough around the edges as long as you're willing to keep working on it, releasing updates early and often. Heck, even Apple has fallen into that mode of operation with the Antennagate brouhaha and manufacturing difficulties with the white version of iPhone 4.

That's what Microsoft really needed to do here -- establish a presence in the smartphone market while consumers still are interested in new and different platforms. The sluggish pace we're actually seeing here only reminds me of how Palm hyped up its WebOS operating system and Pre phones for ages before releasing an ultimately disappointing product. We all know what happened to Palm after that, right?

Or you could look at exhibit B: Nokia's (NYSE: NOK) inability to get its act together and launch a decent handset stateside. At least Microsoft is using its cash piles to incentivize some developers behind its phones; the company is reportedly forking over $500 million to handset companies and developers to spur a better phones and apps when Windows 7 Phone launches.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but drives smartphone buyers into the waiting arms of rivals. Microsoft is killing Windows Phone 7 before it's even released.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google, Microsoft, and Nokia are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Adviso choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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