Microsoft wants manufacturers to pick up WP7 marketing tab

After spending millions of dollars on marketing and getting very little traction out of it, Microsoft now wants the phone makers to help spread the Windows Phone word.

The company is asking HTC and Samsung, along with newly anointed partner Nokia, to help educate retailers and market their products to get people excited about Windows Phone.

Right now, if you step into Best Buy or a mobile store with no clue on what to buy, the salespeople will ask if you want an iPhone or an Android phone. The third option is kind of out of the picture.

Windows Phone is perhaps Microsoft’s one and only chance to really take a bite at the market currently dominated by the iPhone and Android. But the company so far hasn’t done a great job of proving it.

When Windows Phone 7 launched last year, its first-week sales were so abysmal that some started dismissing the platform before it even got a chance to spread its wings.

However, Microsoft has honed its marketing message for the platform, focusing more on its unique Xbox Live integration and gaming functionality and less on its ability to social network (because Android and iPhone do that just fine too).

As such, Windows Phone has reached a moderate following. The company faces problems other than marketing, though. When it needed to roll out a simple firmware update earlier this year, it faced a mess of delays and then when it was finally released it ended up bricking some handsets.

The new version, though, Windows Phone Mango, came out right on time and brings a lot of new features that could actually differentiate it.

But that means nothing if consumers don’t know about it, so Microsoft hopes the increased budget for HTC and Samsung will help.