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Something was missing from the get go at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. That would be the 600-pound gorilla known as Windows Phone 7 -- also known as Windows Mobile 7.
Its absence, however, has not stopped the pundits from arguing over when Windows Phone 7 will come out.
Sunday, as CES wound down, news site Bright Side of the News(BSN) claimed that it had talked with multiple sources and came up with one startling conclusion: Windows Phone 7 will not be delivered until 2011.
"We spoke with representatives from Microsoft, Lenovo, Qualcomm, TI, Nokia, nVidia, HTC and many more and they all had just one message -- Windows Mobile 7 is delayed until 2011," a story posted to BSN's site said.
"We're now certain that we won't be seeing Windows Mobile 7 before World Mobile Congress in Barcelona in February 2011," the story said. But will it come sooner or not?
At his keynote opening the CES show, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer barely even mentioned mobile phones and the company's line of mobile operating systems. He briefly mentioned Windows Mobile 6.5, considered a stopgap release, which began arriving on OEMs' handsets in October.
However, Ballmer never let the words Windows Phone 7 cross his lips, although he did promise more on Windows Mobile at the Mobile World Congress-- the correct name of the conference -- in Barcelona next month.
The next day, Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, told financial analysts he has "played" with Windows Phone 7, and intimated that it will debut at the Barcelona conference in February.
Microsoft has been expected to deliver Windows Phone 7 by the end of 2010 since a company executive in the U.K. said so in mid-December.
Many analysts and other observers believe that Microsoft has to ship Windows Phone 7 by the end of the year or risk losing out on the burgeoning market for smartphones and other smart mobile devices.
If Microsoft can't deliver before the new year is out, the company is all but ceding the mobile market to Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android operating system and Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone, several analysts told InternetNews.comlast week.
That may have something to do with why a few other news sites and blogs took issue with BSN's reporting.
Delivery in 2010 still on the table
"At the Consumer Electronics Show last week Neowin spoke to representatives from LG who confirmed they would be shipping devices with Windows Mobile 7 'this year.' Does that sound like 2011 to you?" read one post on Neowin.netTuesday.
At least one analyst echoed those feelings Tuesday, saying that, from his experience, if Microsoft had come to the conclusion that it couldn't make the end of the year, it would warn partners and analysts in order to reset their expectations -- and he's heard no whispers of that so far.
"If they were going to slip it [past 2010], they would have let us know [but] I don't know why they'd miss because they know that every minute they miss, they're losing partners," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told InternetNews.com.
"This is critical. We should know one way or another at Barcelona, but they've been saying 'this year,'" Enderle added.
For its part, Microsoft remained noncommittal.
"We're always working on future versions and have nothing new to announce," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.
The Mobile World Congress is scheduled for February 15 through 18 in Barcelona, Spain.
Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com.