A Microsoft executive said the company has no plans to manufacture its own company-branded smartphones, denying reports to the contrary that emerged after Redmond last week roiled the PC hardware industry by unveiling its own tablet computer.
Asked in an interview if Microsoft planned to apply that strategy to the smartphone market, Greg Sullivan, senior marketing manager for Windows Phone, said, “No, we do not.”
Microsoft has revealed that hardware makers building Windows Phone 8 devices include HTC, Nokia, Samsung, and Huawei. “We have a strong ecosystem of partners that we are very satisfied with,” Sullivan said Friday.
Sullivan’s outright denial of plans to build a phone is significant in that Microsoft officials almost always issue a standard “no comment” when asked about industry rumors.
Speculation as to whether Microsoft would start building its own smartphones in-house arose after the company last week announced plans to make its own line of tablets, known as Surface.
Microsoft initially plans to ship two versions of Surface: one that runs a full-blown edition of Windows 8 on Intel chips, and one that runs the tablet-optimized Windows 8 RT, on chips designed by UK-based ARM Holdings.
[ Considering a Windows 8 ARM tablet? Here’s what you need to know now: Windows 8 ARM Tablets: 8 Must-Know Facts. ]
Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund last weekreleased a note to clients in which he said Microsoft has a deal with a contract manufacturer to produce Windows Phone 8 phones.
“It is unclear to us whether this would be a reference platform or whether this may be a go-to-market Microsoft-branded handset,” said Sherlund. “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.”
But Microsoft’s Sullivan told InformationWeek, during a meeting in the company’s New York City public relations office, that no such plans are in the works. Still, Microsoft could end up in the phone business if it ultimately acquires close partner Nokia. Some analysts believe Redmond will make such a move given the mobile market’s strategic importance and the fact that Nokia, with its stock trading at just above $2 per share, would be a relative bargain for cash-rich Microsoft.
Redmond already is investing billions of dollars in the Finnish phone maker to help it with Windows Phone transition costs. Microsoft shares were off 2.48%, to $29.94, in early trading Monday.