Microsoft will break with form to bring an own-branded tablet to market next year, an influential analyst has forecast, potentially jeopardising its careful courtship of manufacturing partners.
The Big M has until now left the manufacture of handsets running its Windows Phone operating system to the likes of Samsung, HTC and Nokia – the latter being the company with which it has the closest relationship thanks to a landmark billion-dollar deal.
The strategy has been founded on the axiomatic principle that Windows Phone needs the broadest base of support possible from handset-makers if it is to have any chance of challenging the hegemony of Android and the iPhone.
However, that approach will be abandoned next year, claims sometime-analyst, some-time editor of Russian site Mobile Review, Eldar Murtazin.
According to Murtazin, whose doesn’t mention sources but whose track record includes breaking the news that Microsoft and Nokia were collaborating on Windows handsets months before it came to pass, the first Microsoft-branded handset is likely to land in mid-2013.
The shift risks upsetting partners because of the likely perception that Microsoft will leverage its huge marketing muscle on its own phones, thus massively disadvantaging those its third-party manufacturers.
Murtazin tweeted: “MS [will] start developing smartphones under own brand. Target - summer 2013. [It will follow] the same strategy and goals as for ms surface tablets.”
The motive behind Microsoft’s apparent change of heart isn’t explained by Murtazin.
But one possible explanation is that the software giant has learned from Google’s succesful example of using own-branded devices in the Nexus range to set standards for new iterations of its smartphone platform.
The move could also be inspired by the fact that the company feels that by next year it ought to have enough of a foothold in the smartphone market to be able to risk alienating partners.
However, given the lacklustre sales of the most recent batch of Windows phones, we’d suggest that prognosis is more than a little optimistic.