Microsoft Inc. (NASDAQ:MSFT) shocked the technology world earlier this year when it revealed that it would be launching its own tablet, named Microsoft Surface, to compete with adversaries such as Google and Apple in the rapidly growing tablet market. What was most shocking about the announcement was the fact that Microsoft would, by virtue of creating their own Windows 8 tablet, be competing against many of its vendor partners that have also slated tablet releases. Now, that competition may extend to smartphones.

BGR's Zach Epstein is reporting that Microsoft will launch its own Windows 8 phone to compete with the various vendors that company is working with in the smartphone market. The report comes just weeks after Microsoft held widely publicized media events with companies such as Nokia and HTC to help promote the Windows Phone 8 operating system. Nonetheless, Microsoft has been privately working on its own smartphone that will eventually compete with the most popular smartphones on the market including the Samsung Galaxy S3, Apple iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC Windows Phone 8X.

Little is known about the Microsoft Windows 8 phone at this time. BGR reports that the phone is already in the final stages of development and will likely launch in the next few months. Whether the phone will be announced before the holiday shopping season was not specified. The China Times reports that Microsoft has been working on the new phone for at least four months and that the Microsoft Windows 8 phone will debut in the first half of next year. The paper also reports that Microsoft's Windows 8 phone will launch under the "Surface" moniker and will likely be released around the same time as Microsoft Surface tablet.

The Microsoft Windows 8 Phone could potentially build off of the momentum Microsoft is trying to generate going into the fourth quarter of 2012. The company has already sent out two invitations for events that will come just before the holiday shopping season begins. The first event will take place on Oct. 25 in New York City and is the expected release date of Windows 8. Some have speculated that Microsoft Surface may also make an appearance at the event. The second event will take place on Oct. 29 and is the expected release date of Windows Phone 8, the new mobile operating system for smartphones.

Microsoft has been more secretive than usual about its new operating systems. The upcoming releases mark a never-before-seen strategy from the company where it will unveil several key features and its big architectural shift on the backend of the operating system at the press event. Meanwhile, the company has partnered with HTC, Samsung and Nokia to help the companies generate buzz about their new Windows Phone 8-based devices. Very little information has been given about the price and release dates of the Windows Phone 8-based smartphones that have been announced.

Even as the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 release dates near, Microsoft is tweaking its operating systems. In a blog post released on Thursday, the company announced several new additions and updates to Windows 8 concerning built-in apps. Mail, messaging, photos, maps, news, travel, weather and the all-important cloud storage system Skydrive will be getting new features and better performance after the updates.

"We're super excited to be approaching general availability (GA) of Windows 8 and Windows RT. With thousands of new apps in the Store, there are a lot to choose from and tens of thousands of developers have been very busy around the world creating new apps. Across Microsoft we've been busy since August adding new features and improving the apps that come with Windows and will be updating these apps before GA," wrote Microsoft in a blog post. "We'll introduce new features, improve performance, and increase reliability. This post is authored by Gabriel Aul on our program management team and details some of the updates you will see starting in the next day or so as the updates enter the Store."

Microsoft has not confirmed that its building its own Windows 8 phone or Surface phone, but if the reports are true, we won't have to wait long before it does. As always, we'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.