Outgoing Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has said that Microsoft has no plans to launch a rival to the Apple iPhone, but will instead remain focused on its Windows Mobile platform.

During an interview with German magazine Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung earlier this week, Gates was asked whether there were any plans for Microsoft to launch a direct competitor to the iPhone. He responded: "No, we won't do that. In the so-called smart phone business we will concentrate solely on software with our Windows Mobile programme".

No Zune phone then?

Windows Mobile technology is already employed in a wide range of third-party mobile phones including handsets from Samsung, HTC and Motorola. Gates also told the newspaper that Microsoft intends to continue working closely with such manufacturers for the foreseeable future.

Financially at least, that makes perfect sense. As highlighted by Gates during his CES keynote speech last Sunday, Microsoft expects that 20 million Windows Mobile devices will be shipped in 2008. In other words, there are still a lot more Windows Mobile-equipped phones out there than Apple iPhones.

During the same interview Gates couldn't resist the chance to have a quick dig at Apple by questioning how long the iPod can continue to dominate the portable music player market. "I don't think the success of the iPod can continue in the long term, as good as Apple may be," Gates was quoted as saying.