Spy shots of an unidentified Sony Ericsson Windows Phone 7 handset have been published on a Chinese forum, although it's unclear if the phone is in development now, or a canned project from last year.
The images were published on the Lizhecome site on Friday, with no explanatory information other than the subject 'What's this?'. They show a Sony Ericsson device running an early version of the Windows Phone 7 OS, with a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, and a 'Prototype -- Not For Sale' message slapped on the bottom edge.
New or old? Sony Ericsson was one of the confirmed partners for Windows Phone 7 when Microsoft unveiled it at Mobile World Congress in February 2010, but has since focused instead on its range of Android smart phones.
As WMPoweruser explains, that could make this prototype a project from early last year that has since been abandoned. It cites a specific model -- the Julie -- which was rumoured last June to have a 4-inch screen, slide-out Qwerty keyboard and a 1GHz processor, running Windows Phone 7. That could well be the device shown in the new photos, in which case, it may not be coming out.
Earlier this year, though, DigiTimes reported that Sony Ericsson had not junked its plans for Windows Phone 7 handsets, with several models "in the pipeline". Last November, there were separate rumours that the company was working on a pair of Windows Phone 7 devices: the Xperia X7 and X7 mini, although there was no mention of a slide-out keyboard.
Sony Ericsson may be biding its time to see how well Microsoft's smart-phone OS goes down with punters before committing itself to launching a WP7 device -- in which case, it would be unsurprising to find prototypes being worked on.
Our gut feeling is that while Sony Ericsson may well come out with a Qwerty-slider Windows Phone this year, it's unlikely to be the one shown in these photos, though.