Microsoft's pre-iPhone 'salute' to Apple

A reminder to Windows Mobile partners that Microsoft will sell nearly 20 million Windows Mobile smartphone licenses. The timing's purely coincidental, we're sure.

Apple fan boys (and girls) are counting down the days before Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. Everyone and their mother-in-law expects Steve Jobs to use his keynote at the event introduce new iPhones, including new 3G models and a less expensive refresh of the 2.5G version.

Microsoft marked the occasion with a reminder to Windows Mobile partners that the company "will sell nearly 20 million Windows Mobile smartphone licenses."

In an e-mail, Andy Lees Sr., the company's vice president of Mobile Communications, heralded this as a "milestone" adding that year-over-year Q1 unit growth in Windows Mobile "was greater than sales of Apple's iPhone."

But not so fast. The reliably excellent Todd Bishop at spotted this little scooplet:

Microsoft said it expected to sell "more than 20 million" Windows Mobile licenses in the current fiscal year, which concludes at the end of this month. In today's letter, Microsoft's Andy Lees instead says the company "will sell nearly 20 million Windows Mobile smartphone licenses."

He's right. On February 10, Microsoft issued a press release where the company offered that prediction for fiscal 2008.

Scott Rockfeld, group product manager in the Mobile Communications business, downplayed the apparent contradiction.

"The way to look at this was that this was definitely a casual reference in a thank you letter," he said. "It shouldn't be seen as anything more significant. We've always said we'd be at 20 million. That's our goal. If it comes up short, it really, truly is a rounding error."

"Ultimately," he continued, "it's just a great time to reach out to our partners...there's a lot of misinformation out there. The reality is that when you look at the numbers, we're outselling RIM and significantly outselling was just time to reach out and say, 'Hey guys, we've done amazing things the last six years and there's going to be no ceasing of our innovation in the future.'"

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