Microsoft has hooked up with nine new hardware partners for its Windows Phone platform and is on the hunt for more as the company strives to grab greater share of the mobile market.
New partners include Motorola’s new owner Lenovo, ZTE and LG Electronics as well as emerging market partners such as Longcheer, Gionee and JSR in China, and Karbonn and Lava (Xolo) in India, as well as contract manufacturer Foxconn.
The new partners join founding partners HTC, Huawei, Nokia, and Samsung. Nick Parker (pictured), corporate VP of OEM relationships, said: ‘Just these partnerships alone represent 56% of the world's smartphone shipments.’ He added that more partnerships were in the pipeline.
Microsoft is also making it easier for new vendors to bring Windows Phone devices to market with the unveiling of its Windows Hardware Partner Portal to provide access to tools and content needed to build Windows Phone devices. It has also lowered the barriers on mandated requirements for the Windows Phone platform, giving greater flexibility for device makers.
The company said it will also work with existing Android hardware, allowing for the creation of economies of scale in components and design across different lines.
The company also revealed its Windows Phone 8.1 update will be available this spring. The update will work on all existing Windows Phone devices and will include support for Qualcomm's lower-end Snapdragon 200 chipsets, making it easier for Microsoft's partners to create budget handsets for emerging markets.
The next version of Windows Phone will also support dual SIM cards and soft keys, no longer requiring the trio of physical buttons on the front of phones.
IHS Analyst Ian Fogg said that Microsoft needs partners to create Windows Phone devices ‘in volume and with good marketing support, unlike the past half-hearted efforts of Samsung and Huawei with Windows Phone 8’.
‘The new cheaper hardware support for the Windows Phone is critical to increase the addressable market for the system. But Android will continue to undercut its pricing, so Microsoft must continue to communicate how Windows Phone delivers a superior user experience, and head off questions of the more limited app support on Windows Phone versus Android.’
He added that Microsoft needed to take action to ensure Windows Phone OS has ‘more apps, to drive home the fact that it is not a third-rate platform that has only recently surpassed BlackBerry in the market'.