Microsoft's VP of Windows, Kevin Gallo, has given a further endorsement to Windows 10 Mobile - although it's a very qualified one that barely stands up to much scrutiny. Gallo's comments were made at Build London, and were reported in The Register.
The endorsement was in response to a direct question about Windows Mobile and whilst Gallo's answers were firm on the platform "There’s really no change in what our direction or strategy is with respect to releasing the Windows Phone software" they were less emphatic when discussing future hardware "we’ll lead with some high end and category innovation like we’ve done with Surface, and OEMs will go and build the breadth of the catalog."
Now set aside the natural reticence of an executive questioned on unannounced hardware and you have the hint of a suggestion that Microsoft will carry on building hardware, albeit in limited quantities. Given that Microsoft offers just four phones at the moment that's not an earth-shattering announcement.
Taken at face value it suggests an incoming high-end phone to compete in the premium market. Take it at face value and you'll probably be disappointed when whatever Microsoft has planned lands.
The Surface Phone (for want of a more accurate name let's go with the presumptive moniker) seems to me to be suggestive of a device aimed squarely at the business end of the market, with high specs and enterprise ready features. Almost exactly like the HP Elite X3, which is due to arrive on the scene in the next couple of months.
So why would Microsoft seek to compete with its number one partner on such a limited playing field? The Surface line of tablets was borne out of frustration with the output of third party Windows 8 device OEMs and slowly morphed into the flag bearer for Windows 10.
With Windows smartphones there won't be a gap when the X3 launches (not to mention Acer's Jade Primo), so why build a phone. And with other OEMs delivering in this space Microsoft would be disincentivising them from developing further Windows smartphones.
With 99% of the Windows phone market, Microsoft has to be careful how it treads with its partners. A Surface Phone would be treading all over their toes.
Despite Gallo's comments I'd say that Microsoft won't release another high end device next year. It will continue to offer the current range of 550 / 650 / 950 / XL until such point as other OEMs have entered those niches.
And then it will gracefully kill the Lumia line and its future ambitions as a phone maker.