The rumor mill has been working overtime saying that Microsoft will launch its own Microsoft Surface-branded Windows 8 Phone device some time in 2013. Are the rumors true -- and if so, does it make any sense for Microsoft to do it?
The rumors have been around for a while and were fed once again at the beginning of the week when China Times reported that Microsoft was building its own Windows 8 smartphone and would launch it in 2013 under the Surface brand.
BRG also reported that a source told it that a Microsoft-branded Surface Windows 8 Phone device "is in the late stages of development and will launch in the coming months."
BRG added that a second source said that the phone wouldn't likely be rolled out during the initial round of Windows 8 Phone launches, and would instead come out later. Although neither site reported on specs of the smartphone, BRG reports that it will be a high-end device
...that will compete directly with high-end devices like Apple's (AAPL) iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy S III, and also with Windows Phones built by its own vendor partners, of course.
Microsoft hasn't confirmed or denied working on such a device. A Microsoft spokeperson would only say to Computerworld, "We are big believers in our hardware partners and together we're focused on bringing Windows Phone 8 to market with them."
Is it likely that Microsoft is working on such a device? It's tough to tell right now, but it wouldn't be that surprising. Steve Ballmer recently said that Microsoft's future is as a hardware-and-services company, not as a software company.
I'm not sure, though, that launching a Microsoft-branded Windows 8 Phone device makes much sense. There's a round of high-end Windows 8 Phone devices coming out from Nokia, HTC, and Samsung, and so a lack of Windows 8 Phone devices on the market won't be a problem. It's not clear at all what Microsoft would gain from having its own branded phone.
Nokia, after all, has now bet its entire business on Windows Phone, so Microsoft has the design, marketing, and manufacturing bememoth as a partner. What could Microsoft do that Nokia can't? It's true that Nokia is in bad financial shape, but Microsoft could always buy the troubled phone company for a relatively bargain price these days. That would make more sense than designing and manufacturing on its own.
Of course, this doesn't mean that Microsoft won't launch its own Windows 8 Phone Surface device. It just means that there's no logical reason to do it.
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