When it comes to Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows Phone 7, skeptics abound.

"Kudos to Microsoft for not missing the critical holiday season, but it's already pretty late in the game," my Foolish colleague Anders Bylund wrote recently. "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."

Production sloth isn't entirely Microsoft's fault, of course. Partner apathy is also to blame. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) said it wouldn't offer smartphones based on Mr. Softy's new mobile OS.

LG, Samsung, and Toshiba are all expected to have Windows Phone 7 handsets available by the 2010 holiday season, trade magazine InformationWeek reports.

Regardless, sales may fail to live up to even modest expectations. Gartner analysts project that the new phones will give Mr. Softy's mobile OS market share a small bump in next year, from 4.7% currently to 5.2%, before falling back to 3.9% by 2014, according to InformationWeek.

I'm with the skeptics on this one. As good as Windows Phone 7 might be -- and we'll have to see it to know -- there's no denying that Mr. Softy has already failed with a feature-phone OS and has a steep hill to climb to catch Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM), collectively the U.S. smartphone leaders, in the high end of the market.

And that's a problem. Microsoft has undeniably awesome franchises in Windows and the Office suite, but it lacks new growth catalysts for powering the 12% annual earnings growth the Street is expecting to see over the next several years. Windows Phone 7 doesn't appear to be that sort of catalyst.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you think Windows Phone 7 will be a growth catalyst for Mr. Softy? Please vote in the poll below, and then leave a comment to explain your thinking. And if you're interested in Microsoft, add it to your Foolish watch list.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool’s disclosure policy just heard the dinner bell ring. Bye!