The wireless industry has been waiting for this moment for a while -- when Vodafone, one of the largest operators in the world, picks the operating systems it wants for its phones of the future.
Today, Vodafone announced that the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform will be one of three it will support. The other two are Symbian's Series 60 and Linux. The transition from using homegrown cellphone operating systems to standard operating systems will occur over the next five years, Vodafone said.
The first device to use the Windows software under the agreement is one to be made with Samsung and is expected to launch in the first half of 2007.
The news is a big win for Microsoft, which has taken a long time to get traction in the mobile phone market. I wrote about the move to more intelligent operating systems on the mobile phone in April.
Other carriers are expected to follow Vodafone in making these types of decisions. Already, NTT DoCoMo, a Japanese wireless carrier often considered a trendsetter, has said so far that it is supportinng two operating systems: Symbian and Linux.
In February, I spoke to Peter Day, Vodafone's senior manager of data propositions, about Microsoft at 3GSM, a world-wide mobile phone conference in Barcelona.
He said Vodafone started to work with Microsoft only a year earlier.
The industry has taken awhile to warm up to the software giant. Many carriers are concerned that Microsoft wants to own the mobile market the way it grew to control the PC market. Day said operators don't want to be a "dumb" communications pipe. Carriers want to be service providers, too.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at 3GSM in February that he company was willing to cooperate, not dominate.
"Operators have been worried about Microsoft wanting in," Day said. "If Microsoft had the relationships, what does that leave for us?"
Apparently, the message worked if Vodafone is now adopting the Windows Mobile platform.
For more on how Microsoft has entered the mobile phone market, see today's story on its close relationship with handset manufacturer HTC.