Microsoft, which has witnessed competitors like Apple and Google grab the spotlight in the mobile phone space, acknowledged Thursday that it is willing to co-fund software development projects for its Windows Phone 7 platform.

This tactic, however, is not new to Microsoft, according to a statement from the company. But a company representative said Microsoft itself had not previously co-funded development projects in such a manner.

"Windows Phone 7 is a significantly more ambitious effort than anything we've attempted before; the target customer base is bigger, the developer community and opportunity is bigger, and our efforts to redesign the UI and developer platform have been significant,"  Microsoft said.

"This expanded scope offers a tremendous new developer opportunity that we are supporting with investments in traditional activity that predominantly benefit the majority of our extensive developer community: free professional tools, online as well as personal support, test devices, events and hands-on labs, training, marketing support, and in some more limited cases, co-funding strategic projects,"  the company said.

Microsoft said the scope of its opportunity is new but its developer evangelistic tactics are not.

"We have a long history of engaging with developers to offer support in the creation of compelling apps. The limited use of co-funding to help initiate strategic projects is not new to Microsoft; furthermore, developers tell us that we do not engage in any co-funding activity outside the scope of our competitors," the company said.

A Microsoft representative brushed aside the notion that the company was undertaking such ambitious moves to bolster Windows Phone 7 because its profile is overshadowed by other companies in the mobile phone market.

"Microsoft is doing this because Windows Phone 7 represents a significantly more ambitious effort than anything they've attempted before," the representative said.

Windows Phone 7 was announced in February. The first phones running the OS are due this coming holiday season. Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone and Google's Android have built prominent profiles in the smartphone arena, with Microsoft taking a back seat.