When Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 7 back in February, Steve Ballmer said the company had plans for special partnerships with AT&T in the U.S. and Orange in Europe. Today, AT&T upped the ante, using even stronger language of its own. A spokesperson wrote in an e-mail, “We’ll be the premier carrier for Windows Phone 7.”
Again, we already knew that Microsoft planned a tight partnership with AT&T, and the spokesperson refused to elaborate on what being a premier carrier entails. (Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile wouldn’t comment, although we’ve known since that February launch day that they, too, would sell Windows Phone 7 devices.)
The news here is AT&T’s professed affection for a platform other than Apple’s iOS. Just a few days ago, Altimeter analyst Michael Gartenberg tweeted that AT&T has purchased 8 million Windows Phone 7 handsets
For a carrier that was notably slow in adopting Android, only recently offering up competitive devices like the Dell Streak and the Samsung Captivate, AT&T’s embrace of a phone platform that hasn’t even reached consumers yet is striking. As for the idea that AT&T getting in bed with Microsoft could signal an end to its exclusivity agreement with Apple, well, we’ll believe it when we see it.