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A Surface Phone? Microsoft Testing Self-Made Design

Move over, Apple: Microsoft's foray into home-grown hardware may not begin and end with the impressively designed Surface tablet. A new report claims that the Redmond company could be setting its sights on disrupting the smartphone market next.

Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that Microsoft's Asian suppliers are helping the company try out an in-house smartphone design with a screen size somewhere between 4 and 5 inches. The tipsters aren't sure if the phone will enter mass production, but the information lends credence to earlier reports that Microsoft plans to release a handset sometime in 2013.

In early October, multiple sources claimed that Microsoft intends to launch its own Windows Phone 8 handset in the first half of 2013, indicating that the phone -- which may carry Surface branding -- was already in the early stages of testing. The fact that it wasn't released at the official launch of Windows Phone 8 suggests Microsoft may be letting its OEM partners fly or fail before it decides whether or not to step into the fray.

Microsoft's senior Windows Phone marketing manager said in June that the company has no plans to develop its own handset, but the company's responses since then have been increasingly squirrely, neither confirming nor denying future phone plans. In a shareholder letter published just days after the initial Microsoft phone rumors hit, CEO Steve Ballmer's annual letter to shareholders confirmed that Microsoft plans to continue making hardware in-house.

"There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface," he wrote. "In all our work with partners and on our own devices, we will focus relentlessly on delivering delightful, seamless experiences across hardware, software and services."

Will a Microsoft-made Windows Phone materialize? We'll have to wait and see. But there's no question that the software-focused Microsoft of yesterday is not the same vertically integrated Microsoft we're witnessing today.

Via Engadget. Image credit: Microsoft