Microsoft said to be working on its own Windows Phone 8 handsets

Microsoft said to be working on its own Windows Phone 8 handsets
Think Windows OEMs were upset because of Microsoft’s foray into the tablet/convertible PC market with Surface? Now it looks like they may have even more to fret about; according to financial analyst Rick Sherlund, the word from the supply chain is that Microsoft is looking to make its own Windows Phone 8 devices as well.

Sherlund’s full statement says:

Separately, our industry sources tell us that Microsoft may be working with a contract manufacturer to develop their own handset for Windows Phone 8. It is unclear to us whether this would be a reference platform or whether this may be a go-to market Microsoft branded handset. We would not be surprised if Microsoft were to decide to bring their own handset to market next year given that Microsoft has decided to bring to market their own Windows 8 ‘Surface’ tablet/PC products.

From this quote we can discern that the device may just be a reference platform - but that's somewhat difficult to believe. The hardware development platform is clearly already in existence and being tested, as the dual-core silicon powering this year's WP8 phones was already revealed at their mobile event (it was the Snapdragon S4, for those of you wondering). It seems unlikely that Microsoft would go to the trouble of creating an external design just for a reference platform, and given their newly revealed ambitions in PC hardware, it seems more plausible that whatever device is being designed is intended to go to market.

Can Microsoft pull off a successful smartphone? They certainly have plenty of experience with what not to do when designing and marketing a phone, as the KIN debacle readily testifies to. If the finished Surface hardware is as good as it looks they probably have the talent and experience to make a successful smartphone – but would it be the smart thing to do? Making their own phone would certainly upset many of their OEMs – especially those who also make PCs/tablets and were already getting nervous about having to compete directly with Microsoft.  Of course Android has a similar issue after Google’s purchase of Motorola, but Google hasn’t yet turned on OEMs – many PC vendors still recall how Microsoft wielded its monopoly power at the height of their OS dominance.

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The move might also hurt Nokia, which has acted almost like a hardware division for Microsoft the last year. On the other hand, Nokia’s financials are looking bad enough that they could potentially collapse even without Microsoft entering the phone hardware fray, and having a real in-house hardware division would help to insulate Microsoft from the fallout of a Nokia bankruptcy.

It may also be a financial reality for Microsoft – they can’t charge as much for Windows Phone licenses as they do for a full version (or the RT version) of Windows, and with phones set to outpace PC growth Microsoft may think it’s necessary to try and get more profit from each sale by entering the hardware channel. Surely their business planners also have read the headlines that Apple and Samsung (two companies that make hardware and control their supply chain) are taking home 90% of mobile profits with 55% of the market share.

Clearly it’s a gamble either way: with a successful phone Microsoft could make more money per unit and insulate themselves against OEM failure or departure. On the other hand, if Windows Phone sales continue to stagnate, OEMs may be more inclined to abandon the platform if Microsoft is competing against them. Especially combined with a possible Nokia failure (since they bet the farm on Windows Phone) such an exodus could lead to a very nasty narrative about the role of Microsoft in consumer software going forward.

Would you buy a Microsoft phone?

source: Business Insider

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