Microsoft is said to be working on its own branded smartphone using the Surface name. The move would put it a little closer to the Apple model than that used with Android.
Such claims aren’t uncommon, though what makes the new ones interesting is that they appear to come via two separate sets of sources. One rumor originates with the China Times newspaper which specifically mentions the Surface name and a release date in the first half of next year.
Another story from Boy Genius Reports cites two unnamed Microsoft insiders: one confirming Microsoft is working on an own-brand phone aimed at the premium end of the market and is at the “late stages of development” while the other says that such a release likely won’t be this year.
Microsoft isn’t denying the reports, but has stressed its ongoing commitment to working with hardware partners. That doesn’t really tell us much as there’s no serious suggestion it would go the full Apple route and stop licensing Windows Phone whatsoever; even if it did, the chances are it would still subcontract manufacture to an existing smartphone firm.
There’s certainly a logic to the idea that Surface could be a brand used for both tablets and smartphones, in the same way as the iPad/iPhone product line. It also fits in with the changes to Windows 8 that suggest Microsoft is very taken with the idea of making a consistent user experience across all devices.
There are two major drawbacks to the idea though. Firstly, there’s no guarantee that Surface tablets are going to be a big hit. Until Windows 8 comes out and we get a good idea of both sales and user feedback, it’s hard to tell if Surface will carry any branding benefits in smartphones.
Secondly, if a Microsoft-branded smartphone was a hit — and arguably even if it wasn’t — you could be looked at some peeved hardware partners who think their own efforts are being undermined. Then again, with less than four percent of smartphone users running Windows Phone right now, there might not be much to lose.