Microsoft planning its own smartphone, reports say

Microsoft has reportedly been mulling plans for its own smartphone for months, and a report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday drove the rumors back into high gear.

According to the report, the tech giant is already testing its smartphone with suppliers in Asia. The move would continue the firm’s push toward becoming hardware and software company in same vein as Apple.

Microsoft and its chief executive, Steve Ballmer, have been fairly straightforward about the company’s plans to produce more hardware in the future. The company recently released a new tablet called the Surface that it hopes will propel it into its new era as a company focused on devices and services, not just software.

Of course, the company has a checkered past when it comes to hardware. The Xbox gaming console has been a runaway success, but the same could not be said of the Zune music player or the short-lived, socially focused Microsoft smartphone known as the Kin.

So far, Microsoft has seen much better success using the partner model that let it thrive in the PC world. But the company announced a partnership with Nokia in February 2011 and has struggled to get many consumers interested in its Windows Phone operating system on phones made by partners including Samsung, LG and HTC devices.

With the introduction of the Surface, however, the company signaled that it wanted to make its own hardware to best showcase the operating system and the firm’s growing presence in the cloud storage space.

The report is the strongest indication yet that the company is considering making that same decision in the smarpthone space. Unnamed “people familiar with the situation” in Taipei, Taiwan, told the newspaper that the model being tested in Asia has a screen between four and five inches, which would place it a size range between Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S III.

In a conference call last week, the report said, Nokia chief executive Steven Elop said that he would welcome competition from his partners at Microsoft because it would spur competition. He said, however, that he was not aware of any plans for Microsoft to bring a phone to market.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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