File this under wishful thinking, but The Information, a new tech website founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin, is reporting that Sony and Microsoft are in talks for a new Windows Phone next year. The report cites an unnamed but trusted source on the matter, though they note that nothing is yet signed between the companies.
Should such a deal come forward, it will reportedly fall under Sony’s VAIO brand, which has seen modest success in the Windows 8 world. Sony used to make reasonably successful Windows Mobile devices, and they were on board with Windows Phone 7, back when Microsoft announced the OS in Barcelona in early 2010. In fact, Sony Ericsson had the ‘Jolie’ prototype circulating before backing out at the last minute.
Sony Ericsson 'Jolie' Windows Phone 7 prototype (2010)
Since that time, Sony has always said the door was open to make another Windows Phone device, but at least back in March of 2012, they said “no one really cares about WP”.
Could Sony be re-thinking their strategy? Since Windows Phone was never off of the table and Sony makes Windows PCs, it’s always a possibility. But until something is signed, these talks may not too significant as we imagine Microsoft routinely pushes Windows Phone to OEMs when Windows 8 licensing comes up. Still, if it were to happen it would generally be regarded as a big win, even if future-owned Nokia currently controls 92% of the Windows Phone market.
In the same report, ZTE is considered to be another player that Microsoft wants to reinvigorate with Windows Phone, in addition to the reduction or even dropping of licensing fees that has previously been reported. ZTE only last month was cited to be returning to Windows Phone in 2014, so that’s not really news at this point.
The timing would suggest that both companies – Sony and ZTE – are waiting for Windows Phone 8.1, which is expected to launch on new hardware in June. That "big push" by Microsoft would be an opportune time for new OEMs to launch their new hardware, catching the wave of free publicity.
For now, we’ll just remain skeptical, as we’ve heard this story before. While we don't doubt talks are taking place, we are cautious about it meaning anything.