Ina Fried

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Google’s Motorola, Windows 8, iPhone Are Key Variables in Sprint’s 2013 Plans

Sprint sees several question marks for the wireless industry as the company wraps up its product planning for next year.

The carrier said it has 90 percent of its product lineup for the first half of next year set, with Motorola’s lineup the straggler owing to its recent acquisition by Google.

“That’s the one we are still waiting on,” Sprint VP David Owens said Monday in a meeting with a handful of tech journalists. “We see it as an opportunity for Sprint if Google plays a meaningful role.”

Sprint and Google have been closer partners around Google Voice and Google Wallet, Owens said, while the old Motorola was also very tied to Verizon.

The market impact of both Windows 8 and the next iPhone are also key factors that are a bit hard to predict, Owens said.

As for Windows 8, Sprint said it wants to be actively involved, but may not lead the charge. It sees some clear opportunities but is also mindful that its last Windows Phone, the HTC Arrive, was one of the more returned products in the company’s recent history. Owens said that many buyers of that phone were coming from Android and found Windows Phone’s unique operating system hard to get used to.

The iPhone is clearly a big bet for Sprint, which had to spend heavily to get the product. That won’t change, but one question is whether the next iPhone sways more customers to the high end or if sales will remain more tilted toward the existing products.

As for RIM and the BlackBerry, Sprint said it is not counting them out.

“RIM is not dead,” Sprint’s Fared Adib said, noting that gold-medal sprinter Usain Bolt was still talking about BlackBerry Messenger at the Olympics over the weekend.

But clearly their market position won’t be what it once was, Owens said. The key will be whether RIM can find a new niche.

“Sometimes the companies that make missteps are the ones that get too confident,” Farid Adib said. “They miss an innovation cycle.”

Adib said that Sprint, like other carriers, wants to see a variety of handset makers and a variety of operating systems, and it places its bets to encourage that. The company is including the Linux-based operating system Tizen, along with Android, iOS and BlackBerry 10, among the operating systems it expects to support over the next year.

If one operating system or handset maker gets too much power, “we lose our leverage as well,” Adib said.

AllThingsD is in Sprint’s hometown of Overland Park, Kan., for two days of meetings. Stay tuned for more coverage of our visit.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald