Microsoft to Apple: May I Cut in with Verizon?

With rumors already flying that Verizon is in talks with Apple regarding new wireless communications devices, who should turn up as another willing suitor but Microsoft?

According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is doing just that.

The software giant apparently wants to sell Verizon (NYSE: VZ) on a Windows Mobile-based phone that could compete with (NASDAQ: AAPL) Apple’s iPhone.

“Microsoft Corp. is in discussions with Verizon Wireless to launch a touch-screen multimedia cell phone on the carrier’s network early next year,” the paper said Tuesday afternoon. The Journal said its sources were “people familiar with the matter.”

The reports say that with Microsoft, Verizon is in the market for a bona fide iPhone challenger. Microsoft’s smartphone project is codenamed “Pink.”

Microsoft did not confirm or deny the reports.

“Microsoft’s strategy has not changed, it is and has always been to provide a software platform for the industry. We work closely with many mobile operators and device makers around the world because customers want different experiences on a variety of phones,” said a company spokesperson in an e-mail.

“Microsoft’s strategy, which we’ve talked about before, is to work with multiple partners to deliver multiple phones through multiple OEMs,” the spokesperson added.

Among the features to be included with the Pink phone will be integration with Microsoft’s recently announced Windows Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft’s competitor to Apple’s App Store.

According to the Journal’s sources, Microsoft will not get into the business of building the phones, but instead will have a third party manufacture them.

However, Microsoft reportedly has a team of phone designers working on the device, including former employees of hip smartphone designer Danger, Inc., which the software titan purchased last year.

A bit of tech trivia: If Microsoft is using Pink as a codename, it chose a name with a checkered past. Pink was the internal name of an ambitious new operating system project at Apple in the early 1990s that was eventually abandoned.

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