Microsoft Smartphone *and* Windows Mobile 7 in 2010?

There have been rumours that a “Microsoft Smartphone” could be on the market by the end of 2009.

With Microsoft planning to open retail stores around the UK, and with SkyBox and SkyMarket (MobileME and iTunes equivilents) on the horizon, you would be forgiven for thinking Microsoft is taking a bite from the Apple book of branding.

It was speculated that the rumoured smartphone would manifest itself as a GSM-enabled version of the Zune, Microsoft’s music player. However, it seems very unlikely that Microsoft would want to enter into the low-margin, high cost manufacturing business, especially in times like these.

Instead, it is rumoured that Microsoft is working on a platform to encourage hardware builders to follow a set of guidelines when creating products.  According to CNET, “Microsoft is developing some smartphone reference implementations for various types of devices."  This won’t be the first time that Microsoft has done something like this. Think back a few years to 2006 when hardware manufacturers were busy making Ultra Mobile PC units.

With Windows Mobile 7 due to be released to developers for tesitng as early as November 2009, it’s more likely that this platform will act as an environment for SkyBox, SkyMarket and an implementation of the Zune for Mobiles instead of releasing one "Smartphone”.

I may have to delete this article in a year’s time as a nice shiny “msPhone" appears on the market, but from where we are just now, it looks more likely that Microsoft won’t make its own handsets.