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Microsoft still testing its own Windows Phone 8 device, just in case things go wrong elsewhere

Windows Phone 8 coverage

Not content with annoying its Windows partners with the Surface tablet, Microsoft seems hellbent on winding up its Windows Phone 8 partners too, as according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, it’s busily testing its own design of smartphone.

Apparently, the device in question has a screen between four and five-inches in size, and should be regarded as a test model, as the WSJ says it has been told that there are doubts it’ll ever make it through to production.

The news comes from anonymous sources within the component industry, so one shouldn’t take it as proof positive that a Surface smartphone is on its way; but the story isn’t without merit, given this isn’t the first time Microsoft has been linked to such a plan.

Talk began back in June, following the announcement of the Surface tablet, but when questioned about Microsoft producing a phone, Greg Sullivan, Windows Phone’s marketing manager denied it quite categorically.

Analysts didn’t agree, and continued to speculate that a Microsoft branded smartphone would come in 2013, and a report indicating the company considered buying Nokia in 2011 showed it had designs on the mobile production game.

Devices and services

CEO Steve Ballmer has gone on record calling Microsoft a “devices and services company,” and talked about “developing new form factors” as one of the “distinct areas of technology driving it forward” over the coming year.

In an interview with the BBC, Ballmer was asked if the company had plans to release more hardware, to which he replied, “Obviously we are… Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah, we’ll dive in.” He may not mention smartphones, but there are only so many relevant devices it can launch, and it already has a games console, a tablet and many computer peripherals. We’d imagine it considers Windows Phone 8 as an “important opportunity” too.

Also in the BBC’s article is a quote from an analyst with Davis Murphy Group Europe, who perfectly sums up why Microsoft would be developing a phone. He says “Microsoft is hedging its bets. The firm is heavily invested in Nokia succeeding with its Windows Phone handsets but can’t allow for its failure to torpedo the platform.”

In October, Nokia published its quarterly financial results, which showed a decline in sales of Lumia phones and the sixth consecutive quarterly loss. CEO Stephen Elop described it as “a difficult quarter.” At the same time, Nokia also dropped out of IDC’s top five smartphone manufacturer list for the first time since its records began.

Never forget your Kin

A Microsoft Windows Phone 8 device could be a sound business decision then, but while the Surface tablet may be well received by some critics and the public, it hasn’t pleased Microsoft’s manufacturing partners. Releasing its own phone before it absolutely has to may have the same effect.

Also, in the back of Microsoft’s collective mind, the specter of its last disastrous attempt at “setting a new standard” must surely loom large too.

For now though, it appears Microsoft is only experimenting with the idea of its own brand Windows Phone 8 smartphone, but it won’t only be technology fans who’ll be watching closely for this to become something more serious.