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Microsoft denies smartphone launch speculation

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Windows Phone 8 screenshot

© Microsoft

Microsoft has dismissed speculation that it is planning to launch an own-branded smartphone to help stimulate global sales of Windows Phone.

Ever since the US firm unveiled its new line of Surface tablet computers this month, there has been speculation that it will continue the move into hardware with a Microsoft-branded smartphone.

But asked by Information Week whether Microsoft planned to get into the phone business, Windows Phone senior marketing manager Greg Sullivan responded: "No, we do not."

Microsoft has confirmed that the hardware partners for the new Windows Phone 8 operating system would include HTC, Nokia, Samsung and, for the first time, Huawei.

"We have a strong ecosystem of partners that we are very satisfied with," Sullivan added.

Microsoft has previously avoided creating its own hardware, instead making money by licensing its Windows software to other manufacturers.

But the company changed this strategy by announcing the Windows 8-powered Surface tablets, which are expected to go head-to-head with Apple's iPad when they launch later in the year.

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Last week, Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund said in a note to clients that Microsoft could also be preparing to release its own smartphone as it looks to drive forward adoption of the Windows Phone mobile OS.

"It is unclear to us whether this would be a reference platform or whether this may be a go-to-market Microsoft-branded handset," he said in the note.

"We would not be surprised if Microsoft were to decide to bring their own handset to market next year given that Microsoft has decided to bring to market their own Windows 8 Surface tablet/PC products."

Despite Microsoft's denials, speculation remains that it will ultimately get into the smartphone market, particularly after Google's recent deal to acquire phone and tablet maker Motorola Mobility.

Windows-powered smartphones currently make up just 2% of the worldwide market, far behind Google's Android and Apple's iOS.

Reports have suggested that Microsoft could match Google's strategy with an acquisition of Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia.

Nokia, which has an ongoing partnership with Microsoft over Windows Phone, has seen its stock slump to just above $2 per share, making it an attractive target for Microsoft.

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