Will Microsoft launch its own Surface phone?

nokia925There seems to be growing concern amongst the Taiwanese phone original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) over the buzz – or lack of it – of Windows Phone 8.

In a report on digitimes.com, its claimed that Microsoft’s phone operating system has garnered only 3% market share, a fair way behind the 10% expected from it by now. And of those sales, Nokia is dominating the WP8 market with 70% share.

The report suggests there are concerns that while Samsung and Huawei initially launched a WP8 phone each, there’s been little in the way of releases since. Acer, ASUS and China-based ZTE were also expected to release Windows Phone 8 devices but the report says that those plans have been put on hold. Some are blaming Microsoft’s fixed license fee for the operating system and its unwillingness to lower it, along with the fact that there is no way, at the moment, to customise the user experience. That leaves all WP8 phones looking the same – not exactly what you want when you’re trying to differentiate your product.

So that raises the question – does Microsoft need to to a Surface version of a smartphone? With only Nokia show sustained interest in the operating system from a phone viewpoint, it wouldn’t likely be helpful if Microsoft decided to launch its own phone in competition with the one vendor showing that interest.

Certainly, a fixed licensing system plus the inability for vendors to customise the phone isn’t likely to create enthusiasm amongst the phone vendors, but a Microsoft phone may well be needed, sold at a discount, to boost interest in the platform.

It’s clear that Microsoft wants in on the Google & Apple show where app stores deliver ‘rivers of gold’ (ie profits) from app sales. But both Google and Apple have done so on the back of providing their own reference hardware – Apple by being the only provider of the Apple iPhone but Google, too, through handset partners.

Back in April, theverge reported Windows Phone boss at Microsoft, Terry Myerson saying of a Microsoft Surface phone,  “it would have to be something where Nokia or HTC was not providing the consumer experience we think is possible with our platform.”

But with Nokia the only major phone maker producing any WP8 phones, it may well be necessary for Microsoft to bring out its own phone to reboot wider interest in Windows Phone 8.

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