What Microsoft's job vacancies tell us about the chances of a Surface phone

Nokia can rest easy for the moment: a review of job vacancies at Microsoft show it's highly unlike to be on the prowl for Windows Phone hardware engineers.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Despite rumours that occasionally pop up about Microsoft making its Windows Phone hardware, analysts who dug into Microsoft's job vacancies have found no sign of it hiring talent to build such a device.

Analysts at Griffin Securities scanned and analysed over 2,000 job openings at Microsoft looking for clues as to what projects the company is expending resources on and therefore what product developments the world can expect to see from Microsoft.

There were 249 openings in for software roles on Microsoft's Bing search engine, the Wall Street Journal reports, and openings that matched a combination of the keywords "streaming video” and "Xbox", but no hardware-related jobs in the Windows Phone division — "an interesting result if Microsoft had chosen to develop a branded phone," The Wall Street Journal quotes Griffin Securities as saying.

A check by ZDNet of Microsoft's job openings did, as expected, find a handful of job openings for Surface hardware engineering roles, and Windows Phone software openings, but none for Windows Phone hardware, which partners like Nokia, HTC and Samsung are undertaking.

Rumours circulated last year that Microsoft was planning to build its own Windows Phone and possibly market them under the Surface brand, which ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley noted was fuelled by Microsoft's open-ended definition of the Surface family of products. 

Microsoft has never flat out denied it would make a Windows Phone, and Nokia, the dominant Windows Phone device maker, even recently acknowledged the possibility that Microsoft may broaden its Surface strategy to include smartphones. 

For now, that particular scenario seems unlikely, possibly because Nokia is gaining better traction with consumers on Windows Phone than Microsoft's tablet partners are with Windows 8, where its Surface remains the most popular slate running the OS.

Thanks to Nokia's efforts across Europe, Windows is a clear, albeit distant, third runner to Android and iOS, with 6.6 percent share of sales in Great Britain, 13.1 percent in Italy, 6.8 percent in Germany while climbing to 4.1 percent in the US, according to Kantar World Panel's ComTech figures for the three months ending February 2013.

Despite recently closing its largest flagship store in Shanghai, China to 'focus on other channels', Nokia's Lumia 920 is helping push Windows Phone 8 up the ranks there too — a market that is expected to account for 460 million smartphone shipments by 2017.

Today, according to Kantar, Windows Phone represented just 1.4 percent of sales in China, where Symbian still overshadows it. However, according to Windows-based ad network AdDuplex, the Lumia 920 became the most used Windows Phone in China with 16 percent share — a spot it shares with the Lumia 820, which has doubled its share amongst Windows Phone devices to 16 percent.

Nokia has partnered with China's largest mobile operator to launch the TD-SCDMA compatible Lumia 920T, and last month began selling the 520 with China Unicom, according to Shanghai Daily.

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