updated 12:48 pm EDT, Wed October 3, 2012
Microsoft phone said to be in testing already
Microsoft is said to be working on its own branded smartphone, a device different in some manner from Nokia's Lumia 920 and HTC's Windows Phone 8X, as well as other models from Microsoft's hardware partners. Rumors of the new device began emerging earlier this week, but now WPcentral cites reliable -- though unnamed -- sources affirming that the software giant is working on and testing its own Windows Phone 8 hardware. Should a Microsoft smartphone materialize, it would represent the second major foray by the company into the making of mobile hardware, after this summer's introduction of the company's Surface tablets.
Microsoft executives have previously denied that Microsoft was working its own smartphone. Microsoft, however, was quite secretive in developing the Surface tablets, and the denial could simply be another manifestation of that secrecy.
Details on the rumored device are scarce, but some reports have the Microsoft-branded phone being positioned as a high-end device meant to contend with Apple's iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy S III as well as other Windows Phone 8 smartphones. A report in China Times claims the Microsoft phone will launch under the Surface brand, with availability set for some time in the first half of 2013. WPCentral's source on the new smartphone revealed little other than that "when compared to current WP8 hardware it's something unique."
Microsoft walks a fine line with regard to producing its own hardware. A significant portion of the company's revenues come from Windows licensing deals it has secured with its hardware partners: Microsoft supplies the operating system, and the OEMs build the machines that run it. The software giant's move into hardware production means that Windows PC manufacturers are now forced in some form to compete with the company that supplies a critical component of their machines.
Some of Microsoft's manufacturing partners have already expressed concerns about this fact, but Microsoft has been pushing along with its plans.
While a Surface smartphone is currently in the realm of rumor and conjecture, it would be in keeping with Microsoft's new direction over the past several months. The company has signaled that it will be staying in the hardware business in some form: first with an apparent confirmation that a confirmed a successor to the Surface tablets was already in development, then with CEO Steve Ballmer's recent statement that the company would be shifting to "more of a devices-and-services" company.