A research note today from Broadpoint AmTech claims that Microsoft is planning to release a smartphone of its own. Analysts Mark McKechnie and Rob Sandserson cite "multiple industry sources" who say a phone is the works that would be released in the second half of 2009 with the goal of tightly integrating hardware and software, much like Apple's iPhone or RIM's BlackBerry line. No other details are given outside of an additional note that backs previous rumors of the phone possibly using NVIDIA's Tegra chipset to provide advanced 3D and HD video support.
Rumors in the past have assumed any in-house phone would run on Windows Mobile 6.5 or 7 and would bring in elements from the Zune interface but in a more touchscreen-oriented design to give Windows Mobile an iPhone-like flagship product.
The belief in Microsoft's plans for a phone of its own would contradict repeated denials from company chief Steve Ballmer and other executives, who have maintained the official position that Microsoft would prefer to license Windows Mobile out to more experienced cellphone partners.
However, the Redmond, Washington-based firm has been increasing its involvement in hardware and is known for having abandoned its software-only strategy in the past. Zune players were introduced in late 2006 despite Microsoft's public commitment to Portable Media Center and the PlaysForSure protected music initiative, and ended up forcing companies like Toshiba out of advanced media players as well as ending music stores like MTV's Urge. Concerns have long existed that Microsoft might estrange itself from its closest Windows Mobile partners, such as HTC.
McKechnie and Sandserson share the sentiment and believe that a similar effect on market share would occur for smartphones as did for portable media players, where the Microsoft offering doesn't directly challenge incumbents like Apple and instead cannibalizes share from weaker competitors.