Microsoft fears the iReaper

 Microsoft last night attempted to reassure its partners over the fate of Windows Mobile, trumpeting sales of 20 million supporting devices, while an analyst predicts 14 million iPhone sales this year.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky has conducted a global survey that finds 20 per cent of those surveyed plan to buy the 3G iPhone – 70 per cent of which are new to the device. The analyst expects the new iPhone will begin shipping in July and to sell 14 million units this year, 4-5 million in the first 90 days.

In a clear attempt to rally its troops for the coming onslaught, Microsoft sent a statement to partners last night, and in so doing underscored just how scared the company is of Apple and the iPhone, touting "freedom", "flexibility" and "choice", the company’s senior vice president of the mobile communications business, Andy Lees, said sales of licensed devices so far make it the biggest smartphone platform.

It’s a message packed with figures designed to tart up Microsoft’s image in the sector, revealing 50 device manufacturers now build 150 different Windows Mobile phones, "with features like GPS, 3+ megapixel cameras, and voice activation — features that other operating systems have been slow to deliver," the message says, in a thinly-disguised barb at Apple’s now one year old offering.

Applications are also touted in this pre-war announcement – 18,000 applications are already available to Windows Mobile users, Lees claims. Though, with over 200,000 developers busily cooking up applications for the iPhone, it remains to be seen just how long that will seem like a big number.

In a dose of Redmond reality, Lees points to the big threat to the company’s grasp on the space – commitment: "Overall, we all benefit from the increased attention on everything that a smartphone can do and the difference it can make in people’s lives. But ultimately, it is your commitment to Windows Mobile that’s helped shape our success," he writes.

As MacDailyNews, which has published the letter in full, points out: "Translation: We’re scared shitless of Apple and, if you aren’t already, you should be, too."

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