Reports continue to swirl that Microsoft is building its own Windows Phone handset: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the vendor is working with Asian suppliers to develop Windows Phone hardware.
Should the report be true, it would mean that Microsoft has decided to follow the same plan with mobile phones as it has with tablet computers. While manufacturers like Lenovo, Asus and Samsung have developed tablet PCs that run Microsoft's Windows 8, Microsoft developed its own branded tablet, Surface, which began shipping one week ago.
By developing its own branded smartphone, as it has with the Surface tablet, Microsoft would be taking another step toward adopting Apple's model of developing hardware and software that's more tightly integrated and provides a more seamless user experience.
One difference: While Surface is Microsoft's first branded computer product, Microsoft has tried before – unsuccessfully – to break into the mobile phone market with its Microsoft Kin devices in 2010. That phone, targeting younger users, was manufactured for Microsoft by Sharp.
Earlier this week, Microsoft launched Windows Phone 8, the newest release of the company's smartphone operating system.
Manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and Nokia already market smartphones that run on Microsoft's software. Microsoft has a strategic alliance with struggling Nokia, which has fully committed itself to developing Windows Phone-based smartphones.
The Wall Street Journal story, quoting unnamed sources, said Microsoft is currently testing its own smartphone design with several Asian component suppliers. The article quoted the sources as saying that Microsoft has not yet made a decision whether to take the product into mass production.
While Microsoft has denied that it has plans to sell a branded smartphone, CEO Steve Ballmer, in an interview with CRN at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July, did not completely rule it out as an option.
Vendors shipped 444.5 million mobile phones worldwide in this year's third quarter, up 2.4 percent from 434.1 million units shipped in the same period last year. But the 179.7 million smartphones shipped worldwide in the quarter represented a whopping 45.3 percent growth from 123.7 million smartphones shipped one year earlier.
PUBLISHED NOV. 2, 2012