Carriers weigh in on Microsoft/Nokia deal–“There is no reason the combination can’t produce a viable third ecosystem”

imageFierceWireless spoke to representatives of the wireless industry at Mobile Future Forward conference yesterday and plumbed their opinions about the recently announced deal where Microsoft would purchase Nokia’s phone division.

AT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph de la Vega was positive, saying:

"If you look at the assets of Microsoft and Nokia, there’s no reason the combination can’t produce a viable third ecosystem. I’m excited to see that happen and I hope it accelerates the adoption of Microsoft Windows, which I think is a great operating system and this combination makes it better."

"I think that app development from my point of view has taken longer than I thought. They still need a few more apps, like Instagram. That will come and over time it will be a very strong ecosystem."

He blamed Nokia for losing the US market, saying they missed the step to 3G and popular phone form factors in the U.S., and I suspect feels Microsoft could do better without them.

"Nokia was my No. 1 supplier in 2004," de la Vega said, referring to when he worked at Cingular. "Then we went to buying zero from them. How does that happen? You just missed the window for products in the U.S."

Surprisingly Sprint was also enthusiastic about the deal.

"I’m excited about [Windows Phone] and I hope it gets 10 plus percent market share because many people in our industry think that’s necessary," said Steve Elfman, president of network operations and wholesale at Sprint.

Tracy Isacke, director of business development and investments for Telefonica was also there, and it seems no-one told her about her company’s strategic alliance with Microsoft.

"Developers go to where the money is, and the money is with iOS and Android," she said. "It’s very difficult for other OSes to become interesting."

Tracy said lack of developers is one reason that Telefonica wasn’t quite as excited about the Windows Phone prospect as some of its peers, and the carrier would instead bet on the Firefox mobile platform, which she said  already has a loyal group of developers.  She said encouraging them to transfer their focus to mobile was easier than trying to convince developers to build their apps on an additional platform.

Microsoft’s chief OS marketing officer, Thom Gruhler, also at the event, was certainly more optimistic, noting that Microsoft was addressing requests for developers for a unified app store, long rumoured, a better system for transactions and making it easier to code for the platform.  "That’s just the direction we’re heading," he said.

He noted getting the kinds of apps that users want is a chicken and egg problem, with developers tell him that once Windows Phone gets to 10 percent market share, they’ll start developing for it.

He cited as yet unpublished research by Kantar predicting Windows Phone will hit 17% market share by 2015, ahead of iOS.

Do our readers think Microsoft as an OEM will get more support than Nokia? Let us know below.