Samsung planning Windows Phone version of new Galaxy S II?

Based on some thin evidence, and enriched with rife speculation, blogs and new sites are saying that Samsung is experimenting with a version of its new, successful Galaxy S II smartphone that runs Windows Phone 7 instead of Android as its firmware.

The main difficulty is that the Galaxy S II (currently available only outside the United States) doesn't match the existing Windows Phone hardware specification. First, that spec mandates use of the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and a new version of the Galaxy S II is expected to run Samsung's own CPU: a 1.4 GHz dual-core Exynos chip. Second, it also requires a trio of dedicated buttons on the bottom of the front face: start, search, and back. The current GS II model has a single front-facing button below its 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display.

But there's been recent speculation that Microsoft may be readying a revised spec that would let manufacturers turn these into onscreen, software buttons for upcoming phones that run the Mango version of Windows Phone 7. Mango is due to be generally released this fall and is widely expected to appear in a new generation of Windows Phone handsets at the same time.

ROUNDUP: Most popular Windows Phone 7 Apps 

That speculation was sparked when Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was caught on video during an internal company meeting, briefly showing off what he called Nokia's first Windows Phone handset, code-named Sea Ray: a sleek black rectangle that appears to have no front-facing hardware buttons. picked up on tweets by Eldar Murtazin, editor of the Russian tech site, who claims the Mango "design guideline" will not require front hardware buttons. Gadgetorama suggests two possible theories: "Microsoft will release an updated Windows Phone specification (with support for software buttons) or this device [the one Elop demonstrated] will remain a prototype (for now) with the first official Nokia device to sport the three required buttons."

The GS II has sold 3 million units in 55 days outside the U.S., achieving that milestone a full month faster than the previous model, according to Samsung. That sales achievement is fueling speculation that Samsung could, more or less easily, bring out a new version of the GS II with Windows Phone instead of Android as the firmware. in a very brief post on July 3 apparently started the new round of speculation about a Windows Phone version of the newest Galaxy smartphone, which has a model ID of SGH-i927. The site based this claim on the appearance of a previously unidentified Samsung smartphone model number -- SGH-i937 -- on two websites: at the Bluetooth SIG, and an online gaming site, Occasional Gamers. The difference between the two model numbers is being widely interpreted as showing that the new handset will be a follow-on or variant of the GS II.

"[W]e know this is a Windows Phone 7 Mango handset for two reasons -1) it has the exact same Bluetooth profile as the Mango Windows Phone 7 stack and 2) the device has shown up on Occasional Gamers' list of Windows Phone 7 handsets running its games," WMPU asserted.

WMPU linked to the Bluetooth SIG profile for Windows Phone 7, and for the mystery SGH-i937 handset, which do appear the same. But one thing that's unclear is whether other manufacturers could put together the same profile from the Bluetooth specification. The site also linked to a cached version of what apparently is the Occasional Gamer's listing, which does show the Samsung model number in a list of other Windows Phone handsets.

That was enough for a lot of online pundits.

"With the response that the Android powered Samsung Galaxy S II has received in the marketplace, it would be a good business decision to see if that success could be repeated with an OS that is looking for a jump start anyway," concluded 

"Given the recently announced sales success of the GSII - 3m devices in 55 days - it would be little surprise if Samsung decided to repurpose some of the hardware design and specification for a version with a Microsoft flavor," said SlashGear.

But the post went on to note the discrepancy that GS II uses a different processor. SlashGear says that still leaves the GS II's high-quality display, 8-megapixel camera and the slender casing, apparently just running a new CPU and a new operating system.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.


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