A Microsoft Windows Phone? Rumors are flying

By Kip Kniskern | In Mobile | Posted October 2, 2012

windows-phone-8-rtm-2All of a sudden, rumors are popping up all over that Microsoft is indeed developing its own Windows Phone hardware.  The rumor first gained legs earlier this summer, when a tech analyst, Rick Sherlund, from Nomura wrote in a note to investors:

Our industry sources tell us that Microsoft may be working with a contract manufacturer to develop their own handset for Windows Phone 8

Then yesterday new reports that Microsoft was planning its own phone hardware came out via the China Times (translation to English), perhaps not the most reliable source of information, but still, there it was.

But now today, both the Boy Genius Report and WPCentral are reporting secondary sources of confirmation of a Microsoft Windows Phone, to be launched sometime in 2013.  WPCentral reports:

Information has come forward to Windows Phone Centralthat demonstrates Microsoft does have their own Windows Phone hardware in the works; in fact, we’ve heard it already exists and is in testing. The source(s) are known to us and not anonymous, though for obvious reasons we must keep them off the record.

Details about what it looks like, hardware specifications, launch times, etc. have not been shared with us by the person(s) who have provided the information. The only thing we do know is when compared to current WP8 hardware it’s something unique.

WPCentral rates its own rumor as “highly accurate”, and if we’re to believe that Microsoft is indeed getting into the phone hardware business, the obvious next question is why?

Windows Phone gained a big boost, although not one that translated into immediate sales, when Nokia came on board, but recently there have been rumblings that Nokia may be more interested in pushing its own Lumia brand, including Pureview camera technology and a range of phone software and location services, than it is to champion Windows Phone itself.

Recently Microsoft curiously seemed to take a step back from Nokia when it enthusiastically endorsed the new HTC “Windows Phone 8X” and “Windows Phone 8S” line, with Terry Meyerson noting at the press event  “these are the first devices with ‘Windows Phone’ right in the name”.

And Microsoft has been hinting that devices will play an increasingly important role in the company’s business.  In an interview with the Seattle Times published September 15th, Microsoft CEO said:

I think when you look forward, our core capability will be software, (but) you’ll probably think of us more as a devices-and-services company. Which is a little different. Software powers devices and software powers these cloud services, but it’s a different form of delivery….

Doesn’t mean we have to make every device. I don’t want you to leap to that conclusion. We’ll have partners who make devices with our software in it and our services built in. … We’re going to be a leader at that.

Microsoft has made big bets with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, and they may be the only ones truly interested in pushing forward not only specific devices but the ecosystem and the way that it could all fit together.  Providing a “family” of Surface devices (if that’s what the new Microsoft Windows Phone will be called) could allow Microsoft to push that ecosystem, and push other manufacturers to see the benefits of their own “families” of Windows devices.  Still, if no one is buying Windows Phone as it is, diluting the market and creating consumer confusion could be very risky business.

Is Microsoft doing the right thing by working on their own Windows Phone?  Can they compete with the sophisticated camera and audio advancements HTC and Nokia are pushing?  And can they push their own devices without upsetting their partners?  Looks like we may be about to find out.

Posted October 2nd, 2012 at 11:33 am