On Monday DigiTimes reported that Foxconn International Holding (FIH) has received orders from both Microsoft and Amazon to produce branded smartphones for a mid-2013 launch. The news arrives by way of the typical "upstream supply chain" source, and both parent company Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry) and FIH have declined to comment.
News surrounding self-branded smartphones from Microsoft and Amazon isn't anything new. In fact, a Kindle-branded smartphone was rumored to make an appearance back in September when Amazon announced its updated line of Kindle e-readers and tablets, but obviously that didn't happen. So far the online retailer is remaining quiet on the rumor, but speculation points to Android serving as the platform of choice given the company's current library of apps, and the use of Google's mobile OS on present and previous Kindle tablets.
Amazon already has a storefront up and running, Amazon Wireless (opens in new tab), dedicated to selling cell phones (with or without plans), tablets, mobile hotspots and USB modems, and other mobile-related accessories. A Kindle smartphone would seemingly feel right at home sitting next to other unlocked phones supplied by RIM, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and more.
The DigiTimes sources added that Microsoft's own self-branded smartphone (likely called Surface) will use the new Windows Phone 8 mobile OS – another given. Actually the phone will likely sport the next build of Windows Phone 8 beyond the rumored 8.1 (or Apollo Plus) update, implementing performance enhancements and bug fixes while launching new exclusive features.
News of a Surface phone has been in circulation for quite some time. Previous reports indicated that the company is indeed working on the device, but planned to release it sometime by the end of 1Q13 or the beginning of 2Q13 so that it doesn't directly compete with partners releasing new Windows Phone 8 devices in 4Q12. The launch of the Surface tablets seemingly eradicated that theory, as Microsoft launched its own self-branded tablets despite similar solutions from Microsoft partners.
DigiTimes' sources – along with prior reports – indicate that the Surface and Kindle smartphones will initially have a limited shipment volume. Microsoft and Amazon will likely follow Google's lead by offering the devices directly to customers at full price and unlocked. However that's pure speculation at this point, and the rumor of Foxconn receiving smartphone orders from Microsoft and Amazon is just that – mere rumor.