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    Microsoft May Be Producing Its Own Branded Smartphone In 2011

    Microsoft may roll out its own Nexus One competitor next year, according to a Northeast Securities analyst who reportedly discussed the possibility of a branded phone with Microsoft's suppliers and design partners.

    As reported by TheStreet.com and other sources, analyst Ashok Kumar suggested that a branded phone would roll out early in 2011, manufactured by Asustek Computer. The device would presumably run Microsoft's new smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 7, which the company unveiled in a Feb. 15 press conference during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

    Scuttlebutt about a Microsoft-branded smartphone has been longstanding, even before competitors such as Google began introducing their own devices into the wild. In September 2009, I asked Microsoft about the rumor that it would introduce two branded smartphones early in 2010, which the company refused to comment on and which never came to pass. Even before that, in April, Microsoft responded to rumors that it was developing a smartphone with Verizon (code-named Pink) with a curt declaration that it was "not going into the phone hardware business."

    Doubtlessly the rumors of a branded smartphone will persist until Microsoft actually makes an official announcement. In the meantime, though, the company probably has far more pressing issues to deal with in the mobile space. For starters, it'll need to convince developers that the Windows Phone7 Series is a platform worth developing for, despite the rise in Google Android and other competitors; it'll also need to convince the enterprise and small and midsize businesses that the new smartphone OS will meet their needs, despite its ultraconsumer sheen and focus; and lastly, it'll need to work with manufacturers to get the actual devices onto store shelves by holiday 2010, as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer predicted.

    Those are tall orders for any company, even a particularly large one like Microsoft. And Redmond's future in the mobility space probably dictates that it focus on those goals first before devoting energies to a branded device.

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