Microsoft and Nokia may have vowed to support one another through thick and thin, but Redmond's newfound vocal support of HTC's Windows Phone 8X device means Microsoft isn't relying on one partner to see its platform through.
Our invitation to Microsoft' official launch of the Windows Phone 8 operating system cleverly wraps event details into HTC's premier Windows Phone. It turns out that this design is one of four depicting key Windows phones that Microsoft sent to journalists inviting them to the event. Two show off HTC handsets and two depict the Nokia Lumia phones.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's involvement in the September Windows Phone 8X unveiling was a show of support for HTC, whose new phones bear a striking resemblance to Nokia's Lumia 920. Although Microsoft is spreading the Windows Phone love, this invitation is one more indication that Microsoft won't play favorites with Nokia, the one company dedicated to solely supporting Windows Phone's platform going forward.
HTC's upsurge as a serious Windows Phone player is significant. Verizon, the U.S.'s largest carrier, is using the Windows Phone 8X device as its first foray into Windows Phone in more than a year. Verizon completely ignored Nokia's Lumia 900 and every other Windows Phone of 2012. If Nokia can't compete with HTC on Verizon, it could easily lose ground to HTC as the U.S.' pre-eminent Windows Phone brand.
For his part, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop projects an air of disconcern. Speaking to CNET in an interview, he said:
Anyone can call their devices "Windows Phone." So, we could call our devices "Windows Phone." But what we did was we established the "Lumia" name for this family of products, because Lumia does signify that we've been able to go a step further than the standard spec with Windows Phone devices.
Nokia has also commented that HTC's unveiling is "more good news for the Windows Phone ecosystem," emphasizing instead its differentiated features, like the PureView camera, wireless charging, and Nokia Music.
We'll see what Microsoft has in store at its October 29 launch. CNET will be on the ground, covering the action.
This post was updated at 12:56 p.m. PT with details on the four versions of the invitation.