Microsoft Looks To Partners For Next WP7 Marketing Push. Dell Hangs Back?

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has been working hard at promoting its new and improved mobile effort, the Windows Phone 7 platform, in the past year. It’s chalked up new device partners, including a veritable biggie, Nokia; (NYSE: NOK) It’s updated the OS to cover initial shortfalls; and it’s made sure the world in general knows what it is trying to do by putting itself front and center at all the important events, be it CTIA, MWC or CES. A lot of that, so far, has not come through in growing market share, so now it is going after yet another promotional push, via its device partners.

According to article in Bloomberg, Microsoft’s mobile head, Andy Lees, says that two of its key device partners, HTC and Samsung, will be increasing their marketing budgets for their Windows Phone-based devices. A new rush of these will be hitting the market starting in the next couple of weeks preloaded with the newest iteration of the OS, dubbed “Mango.”

Samsung and HTC, two of the world’s biggest smartphone makers, also manufacture devices based on Android, and it is these Android devices that have fuelled the bulk of their unit sales and smartphone revenues up to now. There have been murmurs, however, that the two might be redoubling efforts on Windows Phone in the wake of Google’s purchase of one of their competitors, Motorola (NYSE: MMI), although this has not been borne out yet in terms of how they have marketed devices.

Lees words come at a time when question marks have started to appear over one of Microsoft’s past key partners for the Windows Phone platform. Eeports have started to emerge, first seen in WPcentral, that computer and mobile device maker Dell may not be launching a Mango device, and will instead wait for the next Windows Phone iteration that will be closely linked to Windows 8 — or perhaps move out of Windows Phone devices altogether.

Dell, like HTC and Samsung, also makes devices based on the Android OS. It had been one of the very first device makers to come out with a mobile build on Windows Phone 7 last year, and it has not commented on the reports.

Lees doesn’t detail exactly what HTC and Samsung will be doing to promote their new Mango devices, but as a sign of where he possibly sees a weakness at the moment, Lees notes that one area that will see some attention is the retail end of the operation, where sales people promote one device over another.

That’s an odd thing to mention though. Since both Samsung and HTC themselves rely on retailers such as Best Buy and the carriers themselves when recommending devices, that makes the whole proposition sound potentially a bit shaky. (Microsoft leaning on Samung/HTC who then have to lean on a retailer? Someone is bound to fall over.)

Nokia, which directly and indirectly controls some 6,000 stores, could potentially be a more solid bet at driving Windows Phone promotions at the retail end.

In the past, there have been reports that Microsoft has suffered in the retail space, where salespeople have promoted Android devices over WP7 devices to consumers shopping for a smartphone.

Currently Microsoft controls less than five percent of the installed base of smartphones, in terms of the market share of its operating system. Gartner believes that number could grow to 11 percent next year and reach 20 percent by 2015.