Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Platform Avoiding a Google/Apple 'Duopoly'

As the GSM Mobile World Congress kicks off, all eyes are on Microsoft as it emerges as a key contender in the mobile field.

BARCELONA – The GSM Mobile World Congress, the largest global wireless event of the year, kicked off Monday against the backdrop of aggressive competition between Google and Apple and the rest of the industry’s effort to break the code.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told reporters that Nokia’s decision to opt for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform as its primary smartphone operating system was specifically intended to “avoid a duopoly” in the mobile industry.

“A decision to swing to Android [Google’s operating system] would have tilted the mobile ecosystem in the direction of a duopoly, but we wanted to create a challenger,” Elop said.

That challenger, Microsoft emerged Monday as the key contender, with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer featured as the first live keynote speaker of the confab, which runs Feb. 14-17.

Ballmer, talking to a packed auditorium of top-tier telecom execs, explained how the new phone would allow for multi-tasking using a hub design that integrates what’s most important on cell phones and gives users full Internet access, “just like on a PC at home.”

“If you liked what we did with Facebook, I think you’re going to love how we’ve integrated Twitter into the people hub,” Ballmer said—highlighting the need to make accessing content a smooth, user-friendly experience.

Ballmer was followed by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who trumpeted the one-line social network services’ ability to strongly connect businesses with their clients and revamp the way audiences watch live television.

“People are starting to watch TV in real time again because in order to participate socially in Twitter that have to watch the show while it happens,” Costolo pointed out.

For Costelo, the trend that counters the delayed viewing afforded by hard drives and DVD-watching not only includes sporting events, but other programming like England’s X-Factor, which has incorporated the Twitter interaction into the show.

“Our mission is what companies want to do, make a connection with clients,” the Twitter chief said.

Even so, Google’s presence as an exhibitor for the first time at the congress speaks to the transformation in the sector and the marriage between iconic handsets and premium content.

The GSM congress, which has become a must for anyone interested in future applications of mobile phones, not only has seen record numbers in attendees—with 55,000 people  from 200 countries swarming the 1,300 exhibition stands.