A top Microsoft executive today compared Apple's iPhone 4 to his own company's problem-plagued Vista operating system.
"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that," said Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, in a keynote speech at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which runs through Thursday in Washington, D.C.
The successor to Windows XP, Vista launched in early 2007 and was heavily criticized by users, and in a series of e-mails that became public during a class-action lawsuit, even by the company's own senior executives. The consensus, deserved or not, has become that Vista was one of Microsoft's worst operating systems.
Earlier in his talk, Turner poked fun at the reception problems that have dogged Apple's iPhone 4 since its June 24 launch. "One of the things I want to make sure you know today is that you're going to be able to use a Windows Phone 7 and not have to worry about how you're holding it to make a phone call," Turner said, referring to the Microsoft mobile operating system set to debut on smartphones this fall.
Complaints about the iPhone 4's call reception surfaced within hours of its release to retail, as buyers griped that touching the external antenna -- embedded in a steel band that encircles the case -- often dropped calls or caused the signal strength indicator to plummet. Apple acknowledged that holding the iPhone 4 could weaken the cellular signal, then a week later claimed that the iPhone 4's signal formula was flawed and promised to update the software.
Others have called for Apple to make good.
Late Tuesday, Consumer Reports magazine, which on Monday told buyers it would not recommend the iPhone 4 -- a first for the publication, which has given its "Recommended" label to all previous iPhones -- said it was Apple's responsibility to "provide the fix -- at no extra cost to consumers."
Saying that it was wrong for Apple to put the onus on iPhone 4 customers -- Apple told users to "avoid gripping it in the lower left corner" or "use one of the many available cases" -- Consumer Reports urged the Cupertino, Calif. company to provide a free case to people who buy or have bought the smartphone.
"We insist that Apple pays for the fix, not consumers," said Mike Gikas, the magazine's senior electronics editor, in an interview yesterday. "The best solution would be for Apple to issue a case with the iPhone 4, or give consumers a credit at its online store for one."
Besides mocking Apple's iPhone, Turner also touted Windows Phone 7, now slated to reach retail in the U.S. this November on a number of smartphone models.
The iPhone's position isn't unassailable, Turner argued. "We're back in the game," he said. "And this game is not over."
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.