Rumors about the possibility of Microsoft releasing its own Windows Phone 8 hardware – a Surface phone, if you will – have really been picking up in recent weeks, no doubt due to the excitement over the pending launch of the platform. We've heard suggestions that Microsoft could be planning to hold back on releasing any such hardware until after WP8 is well-established, about the time when we see manufacturers considering their second wave of WP8 devices. Microsoft just released its annual report for investors, and the shareholder letter includes some language that certainly makes the idea of a Surface phone sound like a very real possibility.
The company discusses its role not just as a software and services provider, but also those occasions when it dons the hat of hardware manufacturer, as well. Microsoft notes, "there will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes," mentioning Xbox consoles and the Surface tablets as examples.
While it's clear that for the most part Microsoft will be relying on OEM partners to deliver new hardware, the company also coveys the sense that it's far from done with projects like Surface. Microsoft may not be ready to admit that a Surface phone is in the works, but it's managed to nicely set itself up for such an announcement in the future, should it commit to that path.