Microsoft smartphone partners, beware! The software maker is once again planning to surprise industry watchers with in-house hardware that will run its upcoming Windows Phone 8 operating system.
According to the China Times and WPCentral, Microsoft is already testing a smartphone.
“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,” WPCentral said in an Oct. 2 blog post. “The only thing we do know is when compared to current WP8 hardware, it’s something unique.”
China Times, by Google’s rough translation, reports that Microsoft has been developing its own smartphone for more than four months and plans to debut the phone in the first half of 2013, in order to “implement its vision of Windows Phone 8,” not wanting to leave decisions about materials, design, service and software-hardware integration “in the hands of others.”
In June, Microsoft surprised industry watchers by introducing the Surface, a Microsoft-made tablet that will compete with the tablets that Microsoft partners have been building to run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 software. The Surface was a surprise to media, consumers and even, to a degree, Microsoft’s partners—in one instance, analyst Roger Kay told eWEEK, a hardware partner was only notified just before Microsoft CEO Steve Baller climbed the stage to make the announcement—and has hurt some Microsoft relationships.
Acer CEO JT Wang, according to the Financial Times, told Microsoft that it should “think twice” about also becoming a hardware maker, as it would “create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem.”
“If Microsoft is going to do hardware business, what should we do?” said Wang. “Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?”
Google, which makes the Android mobile operating system, similarly disconcerted hardware partners when it purchased Motorola. While it has said that the smartphone maker will receive no special treatment regarding Android, introducing new smartphones in September, Chairman Eric Schmidt explained that Google’s purchase of Motorola enables it to be “involved in the mobile industry at the scale that it wants to be.”
Microsoft, which has come across as rather fair-weather with its affections, may be as unconcerned about alienating smartphone partners as it was tablet partners.
On Sept. 5, Nokia, which has called itself “the lead mobile partner for Microsoft,” introduced two new Windows Phone 8 smartphones. Less than two weeks later, Ballmer, with HTC CEO Peter Chou, introduced the Windows Phone 8X and 8S smartphones, saying they were being positioned “as the signature Windows Phones.”
Samsung, which arguably has the least to lose, given the success of its Android-running devices, has also developed a Windows Phone 8 smartphone, the Ativ S. (Ativ is “vita,” the Latin word for life, spelled backward; Sony already has dibs on a Vita brand.)
Microsoft has said that consumers will start to receive Windows 8 Oct. 26, whether by upgrading their OS or buying new hardware. Windows Phone 8 is expected to follow Oct. 29, with smartphones arriving in early November.