Windows Phone exec. joins Amazon as smartphone rumors swirl

A former Microsoft Windows Phone director has joined Amazon ahead of rumors that the retail giant is pushing for a smartphone debut later this year.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

A senior Microsoft director has left the company to join Amazon, ahead of swirling rumours that the retail giant will challenge the duopoly of Google and Apple in the smartphone space and debut its own mobile device by the end of the year.

Robert Williams, former Microsoft senior director of Windows Phone business development, left the company after more than 15 years in July and joined Amazon.

He takes up the position as "Director App Store" at Amazon, according to his recently updated LinkedIn profile, suggesting he will run Amazon's mobile application store based on his prior experience in the smartphone space at Microsoft.

A recent tweet showed he was "at work" at Amazon

Williams was the lead behind the range of apps available on the Windows Phone platform. His move --- to what we presume is Amazon's application store unit --- marks a similar role with additional responsibilities.

He is the third high-profile Windows Phone staffer to leave the company in the past year, notably Charlie Kindel who left Microsoft in 2011, and Brandon Watson who joined the retail giant to work on the Kindle platform. (If only it were the other way around: "Kindel on Kindle," that'd be just perfect. Alas, no.) 

On Wednesday, we reported that Amazon was in the "smartphone testing" phase with plans to start production later this year in time for the Christmas holidays. 

There are two things to consider here:

Microsoft could be planning on licensing out its Windows Phone operating system to Amazon to take on the giants of the iPhone and Android device base. Or, as rumours suggest, Amazon is developing for Android and Microsoft is simply unable to retain key talent and senior leads are defecting to a rival firm to make a go of it elsewhere. 

No doubt ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley can enlighten us later on today, or pour a hearty glass of cold water on the idea. 

ZDNet sought comment from Microsoft and Amazon, but did not receive a reply at the time of writing. We'll update you if we hear anything back. 

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