The Chinese local media reports that Jean-Philippe Courtois, Microsoft's global executive vice president and Microsoft worldwide president, recently visited the new headquarters of Suning, a Chinese consumer electronic retail chain, located in Nanjing. There he spoke with Suning chairman Zhang Jindong, and the two reached a two-year agreement spanning e-commerce, product sales, and marketing.
Part of this agreement, according to the local media, includes Microsoft's Surface smartphone that's rumored to be hitting the market in mind-2013. While the Redmond company has yet to officially announce the existence of a self-branded smartphone, the locals claim that it will first be sold through the retail channels of Suning.
While visiting Suning, Courtois also reportedly talked with the chairman about the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 in China. Microsoft supposedly said that it will consider Suning as its prior sales channel for these two new products.
China's Suning electronics chain is one of Microsoft's biggest channel partners overseas. The two began working together back in 2007 to promote the pre-installation of genuine operating systems. Microsoft launched Windows experience stores in Suning stores shortly after that, and then chose Suning as the 3C channel for the debut on Windows 7 in mainland China.
News of Microsoft's deal with Suning follows a report that claims Microsoft has chosen Foxconn as the manufacturer of its rumored Surface smartphone. Slated for a mid-2013 release, it will sport the latest build of Windows Phone 8 – perhaps 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.
But selling the phone exclusively in China first sounds a little outside the Microsoft box. After all, that's not how it handled the Surface RT tablet which launched in October. That said, take this report with a grain of salt until additional information is provided.