Microsoft just posted some job new job opportunities and one theme has surfaced: they're actively recruiting for what appears to be a new Hardware team, a sub-group in the Mobile Communication Business (MCB). The MCB is tasked with improving Microsoft's

...focus and processes to rapidly commercialize the new Windows Phone (WP) OS, software and services with our OEM and Mobile Operator partners. One component of this evolution is the Hardware group which is responsible for helping drive rapid commercialization of WP by active management of relationships and technical direction with key hardware partners.

No, it's not Microsoft building a self-branded Windows Phone, but rather a stronger hand in guiding the future evolution of Windows Phone hardware, working in conjunction with OEM partners for rapid deployment.  A few of the jobs for this Hardware group include:

Such high level positions sounds to us like this is a new undertaking for Microsoft (or a lot of key personal went missing recently). In addition, the director will:

... lead a team of hardware developers that design, develop, and test multi-protocol wireless implementations for mobile applications, with an eye toward cost reduction, power consumption and performance improvement, whilst maximizing re-use and minimizing time to market. You will work with business, industrial design, user experience, hardware, and software teams to understand, identify and drive requirements and identify the emerging technologies that will enable new user scenarios.

Call us crazy, but if this whole group is new (or at least being revamped), it sounds to us like Microsoft is going to become more strict and focused on hardware for Windows Phone, to the point of nearly directing key OEM partners on new devices (but we're sure they'd call it "collaborating"). If so, it's an interesting approach of using Microsoft's vast resources and research capabilities to do a lot of hardware engineering, without committing to making the hardware themselves. Thoughts? Sound off in comments.