Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Microsoft packs 36 iPhone digs into one 7-paragraph letter

June 6, 2008: 10:42 AM ET

It's classic Microsoft.

On Thursday, two business days before Apple's (AAPL) World Wide Developers Conference, Redmond sent a shot across Cupertino's bow with a letter to Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Mobile partners -- with copies to the press.

It's already been noted that the letter quietly moves Microsoft's goal post -- from its 2008 target of "more than 20 million Windows Mobile licenses" in February to "nearly 20 million" today. (see here)

But what struck me was how relentlessly the document tries to slip the shiv between Steve Jobs' ribs. It contains only one direct reference to the iPhone, a 3G version of which is expected Monday and will likely set off a flood of headlines as new applications roll out and Apple's deals with international carriers kick in. Clearly Microsoft is trying to get its jabs in while it can -- and, in the process, has set what may be a modern record for passive-aggressive disses per graph. I count 36 in all, but I may have missed a few.

Judge for yourself. I've pasted a copy of the letter, with numbers and bold emphasis added, below:

- - - - -

Letter from Andy Lees

To Our Windows Mobile Partners:

Earlier this year, I joined an amazing group of people and partners like you who work every day towards a vision of putting a 'smartphone in every pocket.' To reach this vision, together we've created an (1) open platform that provides freedom — the (2) freedom for people across the globe to get the type of handset they want (3) on the network they want, the (4) flexibility for our hardware and mobile operator partners to build on the platform, and the (5) opportunity for developers to create applications on our platform for virtually any need.

It's now my honor and privilege to announce a milestone that our partnership has accomplished. This fiscal year we will sell (6) nearly 20 million Windows Mobile smartphone licenses, making Windows Mobile one of the most widely used smartphone software platforms in the world. We also sold more in the previous four quarters than RIM, and (7) in the last quarter our year-over-year unit growth alone was greater than sales of Apple's iPhone.

To our (8) 50 handset makers building phones with our software, thank you. With your help, we give Windows Mobile customers (9) nearly 150 different phone choices — from phones with (10) full keyboards to brilliant touch screens to (11) convenient flip phones — with (12) rich email, picture and music experiences. You've delivered Windows Mobile phones with features like (13) GPS, (14) 3+ megapixel cameras, and (15) voice activation — features that (16) other operating systems have been slow to deliver.

To our (17) 160 mobile operator partners around the world providing voice and data service for our mutual customers, thank you. Because of you, Windows Mobile customers can send (18) instant messages to their families or (19) update their calendars in countries from (20) Brazil to (21) Belgium, (22) India to (23) Italy. We're proud that we've been able to work with you to deliver more than (24) 40 different phones that run at 3G speeds, at (25) prices that meet a range of customer needssomething (26) not all smartphones can claim. We believe the power of smartphones should not be constrained by (27) price, (28) geography, or any (29) other boundary.

To all our developer partners who continue to innovate and bring new experiences to people and businesses every day, thank you. It is because of you that our Windows Mobile customers have the (30) richest application catalog to choose from — (31) over 18,000 applications to help pursue their hobbies, navigate life and work more efficiently. We're happy to offer some of these applications through the Windows Mobile Owners Circle and provide you the (32) flexibility to deliver them to your customers in whatever way makes sense.

Today, more and more (33) competitors are jumping into the smartphone market or announcing (34) upgrades, with (35) features we delivered to customers years ago. Overall, we all benefit from the increased attention on everything that a smartphone can do and the difference it can make in people's lives. But ultimately, it is your commitment to Windows Mobile that's helped shape our success. Our shared desire to help people do more with their phone (36) the way they choose, and our ongoing focus to deliver experiences that delight our mutual customers forms the foundation of our continued success together.

I look forward to continuing this adventure with you.

Andy Lees

Sr. Vice President

Mobile Communications Business

Microsoft Corporation

- - -

As the Fake Steve Jobs puts it, quoting the Fake Katie Cotton, "this kind of stuff just makes the Borg look desperate."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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