Foxconn linked to Amazon and Microsoft smartphones again, mid-2013 release targeted

Two of the most enduring mobile industry rumors of the past year have received another boost along the road to becoming reality. Foxconn might be fulfilling orders from both Microsoft and Amazon for their own self-branded smartphones. The report comes from notorious gossiper DigiTimes, which doesn’t instill us with all that much confidence, but it’s not as if the news is coming out of the blue.

Quoting sources inside the “upstream supply chain,” the phones are supposedly headed for a mid-2013 release, but will have a “limited shipment volume initially.” Amazon almost always releases its hardware in the U.S. first, and prefers to wait at least a year before sending them out into the world, so this at least sounds consistent with its previous hardware strategy.

Rumors of Amazon’s smartphone plans started gathering pace during the summer, when several news sources linked Foxconn with the retailer, and mentioned a late 2012 or early 2013 date for when production would begin. Although last minute rumors pointed to the phone being launched at Amazon’s September event, it failed to materialize.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos isn’t helping the Amazon phone rumors die either. In an interview with Charlie Rose earlier this month, he responded to a question regarding the mythical device by saying “we’re very reluctant to discuss our future roadmap … I will have to decline to answer that question,” to which Rose responded “because it might incriminate you?” Bezos laughs, “yes, I’ll just have to ask you to stay tuned.” His response was almost verbatim to the one he gave in an interview with CNN Money, again asking us to “stay tuned” regarding an Amazon smartphone. Just before this, Bezos told AllThingsD’s Tricia Duryee that the company would be launching new hardware “not anytime soon, but next year.”

Microsoft’s dilemma

As for Microsoft, any Windows Phone 8 handset it releases will inevitably cause friction between it and its existing hardware partners, so perhaps the new phone will be sold where Windows Phone has yet to make an impact, in a effort to help reduce tension. This would be one explanation for an initially low supply run.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, recently said the company was “obviously” looking at releasing new hardware, but didn’t specifically mention smartphones. However, another source claimed the software company had already started testing such a device.

Microsoft needs Windows Phone 8 to be successful, and much like how it used the Surface tablet to promote Windows RT, a Surface phone could give WP8 a boost in new territories, too. Several of its PC partners took a dim view of the Surface tablet, with Acer’s CEO telling Microsoft it was no good at manufacturing hardware. Microsoft hasn’t taken a “tread carefully” approach with its Windows 8 strategy so far, so Acer’s warnings will have likely fallen on deaf ears.

If a mid-2013 launch date for Amazon and Microsoft’s new phone hardware proves accurate, then the period between June and August next year could be equally as busy as it was this year, when Google, Microsoft, and Apple all paraded new hardware and software in front of the world at huge events. However, right now, this is all speculation, and we expect there is plenty more of it to come too.

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