Windows Phone 8 home screenMicrosoft announced its new Surface tablet on Monday and unveiled its new mobile operating system Windows Phone 8 on Wednesday, but how about an in-house smartphone for a hat-trick? Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund says that industry sources have advised him that Microsoft might be working with a contract manufacturer to build its own Windows Phone 8 handset. The introduction of a homegrown Windows Phone holds the potential to further fuel the fire of competition between Microsoft, Apple and Google in the smartphone arena.

However, before we get too excited, Sherlund stated "It is unclear to us whether this would be a reference platform or whether this may be a go-to market (Microsoft) branded handset." A reference device is used as a model to assist manufacturers in their development of new handsets, but is not intended for retail release.

Microsoft's traditional order of business is to license its software to equipment manufacturers, but this approach has yet to pan out in the smartphone and tablet market. Keeping with this tradition the first run of Windows Phone 8 devices are expected to arrive this fall and come from hardware partners Nokia, Samsung, Huawei and HTC. If Microsoft is in fact planning on releasing a smartphone of its own, this unconventional approach will definitely show a sign of change in the company's direction.

Do you think that Microsoft is actually working on its own smartphone, or that this is nothing more than a misunderstood reference phone?