Don’t hold your breath for a Microsoft Surface Windows Phone

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There’s no need for Microsoft to build its own Windows Phone 8 devices because partners are already offering a great hardware experience. That’s according to Terry Myerson, who leads Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, and who spoke at the D: Dive into Mobile conference on Tuesday. Myerson specifically gave Nokia and HTC a shout-out as two of the hardware partners that provide compelling Windows Phone 8 handsets.

The smartphone situation is the complete opposite of the PC and tablet markets where Microsoft surprised many with the Surface RT and Surface Pro computers it announced last June. These machines compete directly against Microsoft’s long-time licensing partners such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung, to name a few. It also may be why some of these companies are trying to break away from from Windows. HP introduced an inexpensive Android tablet in February while Lenovo now offers a Google Chromebook for the education market, for example.

Nokia-Lumia-900-in-BlueMyerson’s comments don’t surprise me, even though we’ve heard rumors of a Surface phone for months. I don’t see what Microsoft can offer from a hardware perspective that its Windows Phone 8 partners aren’t already offering.

In particular, Nokia is building a wide range of superb hardware for the mobile platform; the direct result of a huge partnership with Microsoft it began in February of 2011. The flagship Nokia handsets meet nearly all, if not all, of Microsoft’s current Windows Phone 8 hardware requirements. There’s simply no reason for Microsoft to build a Surface phone at this point; it may make sense in the future if the company plans a vertical product design strategy.

Because of that, Myerson’s comments raise a different question in my mind: If the available Windows Phone 8 hardware is already good enough to keep Microsoft from designing its own, is the software simply not resonating with enough people at this point? The operating system is intuitive and fresh, but outside of Microsoft’s own horn-tooting, very little independent data shows that Windows Phone 8 is a raging success.

As Microsoft likes to say, however, its phone effort is a marathon, not a sprint. Perhaps later in the race the company will design and sell its own phone hardware. For now, there’s no need to wait for a Surface phone.

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