Microsoft is working on its own branded WP8 device. Windows Phone Surface to launch in H1 next year

Microsoft is working on its own branded Windows Phone 8 smartphone, according to China Times.

They’ve been quietly developing the new device for more than 4 months now, have already selected an assembly partner and plan to launch the new Microsoft branded  WP8 handset in the first half of 2013.

Now, this is completely unconfirmed rumor, and China Times had quite a few misses in reporting happenings in Asian supply chain. But they did have quite a few hits as well, so I think it is pretty likely we may see Microsoft’s own Windows Phone next year.

Microsoft must be getting rather frustrated with the Nokia partnership and its inability to break through in smartphones.

When the deal with Nokia was announced on Feb. 11th 2011, Microsoft certainly didn’t expect to remain a footnote in smartphone market 18 months later. The whole point of the alliance was to use Nokia’s brand and distribution power to rapidly ramp up Windows Phone sales through 2012. Unfortunately for both partners, most of the strengths Nokia brought to the table turned out to be an illusion.

After bungling original Lumia 800 launch, and putting Windows Phone 8 at risk with sales channels choke full of unsold 1st generation Lumia devices, Nokia might not be the favorite topic of conversation in Redmond right now. Ballmer&Co. must be wondering – why the heck they’ve just spent $1 billion subsidizing about 10 million Lumia smartphones Nokia was able to ship in a year.

Hence the feeling that while Nokia’s preferred partner status and all the concessions it was able to extract in that Windows Phone deal are probably safe for now, Microsoft is starting to hedge its bets by bringing new partners in.

Allowing Samsung to announce Ativ S Windows Phone 8 device a week before Nokia, making HTC Windows Phones “signature devices”, Ballmer getting on stage with Peter Chou and elevating HTC 8X/8S announcement to the same level as Nokia Lumia 920/820 launch – these are all gentle (for now) snubs at Nokia. And they are very clear signs that Microkia partnership isn’t what it used to be a year ago.

So Microsoft coming out with its own branded smartphone in a few months, wouldn’t surprise me at all. Such a device would be a clear signal for Windows Phone hardware partners, including Nokia, to step-up their game. I’m still not sure what Microsoft can bring to a phone hardware design table, but they managed to surprise the heck out of all of us with a Surface tablet. And, except for the low light Pureview camera, there isn’t much that excites me about Nokia Lumia 920.

A few surprises in a Windows Phone 8 Surface device pushing hardware innovation to the limits, would be very welcome.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Youssef Mrabet

    So it is Nokia’s fault if hardware specs for Windows Phone were limited in version 7, if there’s no upgrade path from 7 to 8 , if WP8 is being released late and if a lot of software features are still missing!!???

  • MAD

    Could it maybe be Microsoft that creates problems regarding ramping up the eco system for Windows Phone?!

  • Charles Jones

    Maybe it’s because Ballmer has already publicly stated that in the next 5 years Microsoft is going to transition from being mainly a software company to a devices and software company? If they do launch a smartphone I’m sure it will pack a lot more features than just a dual-core Snapdragon and a fancy camera built in. I say it would definitely be in their best interest to launch a phone and tablet over the next year just to get everyone else up to par, because from what I am seeing from not only from WP makers, but to include Android devices as well the industry has gotten stagnant in innovation, I would even include Apple with the iPhone “5” in that as well.

  • postulation

    I won’t believe this till I see it. Not only would this be a shot at Nokia, it would also be one at HTC and Samsung. The strategy may have worked in the tablet space, where Hardware partners were not stepping up, I don’t think Microsoft has much to add in the phone space. Finally, the author comes across as biased. The 920 is a significantly better phone on paper than than the iphone5. If you are not excited about the 920 I guess there is not much in the smartphone world that does get you excited.

  • Staska

    Yes, it is Nokia’s fault. Nokia knew all those limitations of WP 7.5 in advance, yet they ditched everything they had and jumped in with both feet and eyes open into the partnership. Most likely playing on this dominant smartphone position at the time (Q4 2010) and promising unrealistic sales.

    Right now it is clearly Nokia who is underperforming in the partnership. Microsoft seems to be sticking to the roadmap they had pretty close

  • Staska

    Nope. Nokia knew Microsoft’s WIndows Phone roadmap before they went into partnership. MIcrosoft is delivering most of what it promised, Nokia, on the other hand – does not

  • Staska

    Agreed – this sounds rather unlikely. But Nokia going with Windows Phone sounded even more unlikely in late 2010. As for what MSFT has to bring to the table – I have no idea. But I hope they’ll surprise us, otherwise – what’s the point?

    Partners, except for Nokia still have to step up their game. For all the talk HTC has given WP8, it’s just talk for now. WP7 received a lot of similar talk from HTC, LG and others at launch. So until I see the actual sales from them, I’ll wait with measurements of their commitment.

    As for Lumia being better than iPhone 5 – and you called ME biased? May be it looks better for you – but the ultimate proof will be sales numbers. Let’s wait and see what happens

  • Youssef Mrabet

    I’m sorry but that’s a totally different discussion and topic, you’re not discussion the relevance of Nokia’s choice of WP in your article. You’re trying to argue that because of Nokia’s under-performance, Microsoft is looking for other partners and making its own phone. Which a totally biased position. Yes Nokia knew about the OS limitations and roadmap, but yet, what should it have done with them to avoid the situation you’re blaming it for? Release phones with unsupported hardware? Develop all the OS’ missing features and delay the whole roadmap? Force MS to change the upgrade path? I don’t understand your position… It was clear that the first bunch of Nokia WP7 devices were gap fillers, meanwhile WP8 is available and allowing Nokia to unleash its capabilities.

    As for the other partners, MS had all of them long before Nokia joined the ship, yet WP wasn’t selling enough…

  • postulation

    Why am I biased? Look at the facts – Larger screen, better pixel density – although not truly significant, better maps :), NFC, better camera from every review I have seen. On the Apple side – the Iphone has more apps.

    Just the way you asked the question of me, demonstrates the blind devotion people have towards Apple. It must be better because Apple makes it. Its not always true. Apple has lost any technological lead it had in smartphones. They are selling on momentum and reputation now. Amazingly, that could go on for a while, but please don’t confuse that with technological leadership.

  • Collin5

    Well then. You seem to know what you are talking about. How many devices did Nokia promise to sell and how far have they fallen short? What other promises did Nokia make to Microsoft which they haven’t held?

    Oh yeah… you know that Microsoft is making “platform support payments” to Nokia, right? These payments were requested by Nokia as compensation for sticking exclusively with WP during a time both companies knew WP still required much time, and a lot of promotional dollars, before building WP devices could become a profitable venture.

  • Ankush

    iPhone 5 have better processor and better battery and better branding. And the most important its available for purchase.

  • Ankush

    It was stupidity of Stephen Elop & Nokia’s Management to choose Windows Phone 7.5 at that time. Why any company would like to cheat its customer with a dead end product and moreover why to waste its money in creating dead end products.

    I am not understanding Why are you blaming Nokia for not keeping its promise ???
    I don’t think its not Nokia’s mistake that people are not Accepting Windows Phone platform and may be not liking its features.
    WP 7.5 lacked lots n lots of basic feature which most of Nokia phone buyers took for granted and these are Microsoft’s mistakes for not being able to provide such basic features.

  • Raygun

    That is a terrible TERRIBLE photoshop job..

  • postulation

    Thanks for continuing to prove my point. You must be an insider since no one else seems to know anything about the A6 processor from a specs standpoint, AND I am willing to bet that the user experience is no faster on the iphone5 than it is with the Lumia 920 n the S4. Zero. It might even be slower.

    Battery? Not sure on that one. And the branding? Did you miss the whole point of my post? That is the one thing I do admit Apple does better, but that is not a phone attribute, but rather an Apple one.

    Finally, you mentioned that it is available for purchase. True. I have to wait an month. Big deal. This probably says more about society than than anything else. I can wait a month. My life will not be negatively impacted by not having a new smartphone – any new smartphone – for a month or two. Lots of people are convinced otherwise however it seems.

  • Pekka Veistola

    US is the most protectionist country in the western world. Maybe europeans should start to protect their markets like americans do.

  • sheen

    you summed it up brother.. !! nothing else to say. I am using lumia 800 and hell yeah, i will buy 920 as soon as nokia releases it .
    Pure view technology of nokia 920 smokes iphone 5.