Prediction: This Statement Is Going To Come Back To Bite Microsoft In The Ass

It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I’m okay with that.

That was Microsoft COO Kevin Turner during his keynote speech at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington today. I’m going to go out on a (not very big) limb and predict that this comment is going to come back to bite Microsoft in the ass.

Microsoft has a long, illustrious history of putting its foot in its own mouth with comments like this. But usually it’s CEO Steve Ballmer making the comments. Ballmer’s most famous remarks are also about the iPhone. After it was announced in 2007 (but before it launched) Ballmer seemed willing to tell anyone who would listen that the device would fail. Who can forget this video?

And then there’s his comment to USA Today: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” He went on, “But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

The iPhone is now Apple’s most successful product in its history. Microsoft, meanwhile, is in the process of completely pivoting its mobile product offering after bleeding market share in the years after the iPhone’s release.

Of course, this comment by Turner is a bit different. He’s commenting on the antenna issues with the iPhone 4 — a problem which is very real. But comparing the problem to Windows Vista, Microsoft’s operating system in between Windows XP and Windows 7 that is generally considered to be a failure (even by many inside Microsoft), and a massive misstep by Microsoft, is foolish.

The iPhone 4 antenna issue is a scar on a beautiful woman. You don’t break up with the woman because of it, you work around it because of her other attributes. She might even put on some coverup (the bumper) so you don’t even notice it. And some may not even notice it at all.

Windows Vista is Kathy Bates in Misery.

Turner’s assumption is that the antenna issue is going to damage Apple’s brand to the point where people start jumping ship. And he hopes to have Windows Phone 7 waiting with open arms. “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.

But all indications right now is that this exodus is not and will not happen. Engadget did a nice roundup of writers and experts all around the country to get their reaction to the iPhone 4 antenna issue. The consensus? No big deal.

Either all of them are brainwashed fanboys on Apple’s payroll — see, I saved you a comment right there, commenters — or they’re just giving their honest assessment. An assessment that happens to exactly match mine.

More importantly, there are still no reports of widespread returns of the product — despite flashy headlines suggesting that a recall is a certainty. I think Turner, like many people, has gotten too caught up in those headlines.

So I’m making the prediction that Turner’s comment will be one of those that gets repeated over and over again when he’s proven wrong. It’s not as bad as Palm investor Roger McNamee’s comments about the iPhone, but it could go down with some of Ballmer’s greatest hits:

Re: iPhone in 2007: There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.

Re: Google in 2004 (alleged comment):Google’s not a real company. It’s a house of cards.”

Re: social networking in 2004: “There’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people.”