SAN JOSE, Calif. A Microsoft Corp. spokeswoman issued a "no comment" today on a new flood of rumors that the software giant plans to release its own smartphone later this year. The comments come amid a flurry of news and heighted competition in smartphone software around this week's Mobile World Congress (MWC).
Financial analyst Ashok Kumar of Northeast Securities issued a report Thursday (Feb. 18), saying Microsoft could roll out a cellphone using its upcoming Windows Mobile 7 software for the 2010 holiday season. "It's real, and I believe they are still very committed to it," Kumar said.
He cited unnamed sources at Asustek Computer in Taiwan that he said is making the handset and Verizon that is qualifying the device for its WCDMA network. Taiwan's HTC also did early pilot production runs for the project, Kumar claimed.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announced Windows Mobile 7 software at the MWC event in Barcelona. Joe Belfiore, a veteran Microsoft executive who recently worked on the company's Zune MP3 player, previewed the OS which has yet to be released.
Asked about a Microsoft handset called Project Pink, a Microsoft spokeswoman said "We haven't announced anything by that name [and] we can only comment on initiatives that are public and in [the] market."
A Microsoft Windows Mobile director specifically denied the company was making its own handset a year ago when the rumors first surfaced. Others have speculated the rumors could have been sparked by Microsoft's work on reference platforms not intended for sale as end user products.
If Microsoft did release such a handset it would put it into competition with its own OEM customers. Google's Nexus One handset using its Android software is already stealing market share from Motorola's Droid handset using Android, said analyst Kumar.
"Thus far Google's gains have come at the expense of Motorola and to a lesser degree Nokia," Kumar write in a research report.
Microsoft could be motivated to essentially take off its gloves and compete with customers in the super-heated environment of smartphone competition, Kumar said.
"Windows Mobile is anything but a success," he said. "It's fading out of relevance in smartphones, so they may be taking a page from Apple on tight integration of hardware and software," he said.