By Chris Velazco
When Microsoft (MSFT) announced their intentions to jump into the hardware space with the unveiling of their new Surface tablet, the next logical question seemed to be whether or not the folks at Redmond would do the same for smartphones.
After all, the model seemed to be doing well enough for Apple (AAPL) - was Microsoft considering adopting a similar approach to help give their Windows Phones a new leg up?
The answer, it would seem, is no. Information Week spoke with Windows Phone senior marketing manager Greg Sullivan, and when he was posed the question, he was quick to confirm that the company had no such plans.
"We have a strong ecosystem of partners that we are very satisfied with," Sullivan went on to say.
It goes without saying that Microsoft has quite an ecosystem of hardware partners churning out Windows-powered PCs too, but it seems as though their focus on cracking the smartphone space has put their relationships with companies like Nokia (NOK), HTC, Samsung (SSNLF.PK), and Huawei on another level entirely.
After all, PC players like Dell (DELL), HP (HPQ), Toshiba, and the like don't have much of a choice - if they value their stake in the traditional computing business, they're going to continue to push out laptops and towers that run on Windows. What else are they going to do, switch to shipping Ubuntu on their products?
Things are much hairier in the mobile realm, with multiple platforms continually duking it out for dominance (though some clearly have an edge over others), and Microsoft knows they have plenty of lost ground to make up when compared to rivals Apple and Google (GOOG). As such, Microsoft can't really afford to alienate their mobile hardware partners, and revealing that they would create their own Windows Phone device to compete alongside those of their partners would certainly ruffle some feathers.
That's not to say that Microsoft will never do it. They managed to keep the Surface wrapped up very tightly prior to its launch, so it's clear that they still have the ability to pull off some surprising stunts. If they do venture into creating their own branded mobile hardware though, it's going to be way, way down the line, after they and their hardware partners have established Windows Phone as a viable player in the smartphone space. Though some analysts see that as a matter of when and not if, Windows Phone isn't quite there yet.
And that's assuming they get to that point - for now, one of Microsoft's big jobs going forward is to help build market momentum around their platform, and ensuring that their buddies push out timely, solid hardware is going to be a crucial part of that.