Microsoft, Qualcomm offer a Windows Phone design-in-a-box to handset makers

If you’re a handset maker looking to pump out some easy and cheap Windows phones, then Microsoft(s msft) and Qualcomm(s qcom) might just have the thing for you. At Mobile World Congress Sunday the pair announced a new reference design program, which supplies the baseline hardware, optimized software and even development tools and content to get a new WP8 phone on to store shelves quickly.
“It makes it a lot easier to bring devices to market because [companies] can leverage our engineering expertise,” Qualcomm Technologies VP of marketing Tim McDonough said in an interview ahead of the announcement.
While technically the reference design could be used in any class of smartphone, McDonough said that we’ll probably see it most used in less expensive devices. The apps processors going into the design platform are Qualcomm’s 200 and 400 series, which target the entry level and low-end tiers.
HTC Windows Phone 8X
Microsoft launched a hardware developer portal to coax these perspective vendors in, and it and Qualcomm have high hopes that they can attract more than off-brand device makers looking to bust out a few phones. McDonough said Qualcomm believes the program will have a lot of appeal to the top tier handset manufacturer because it will let them fill out their Windows portfolio at little development cost.
“We have customers who might customize their high-end Windows phones but use our reference design – or pieces of it – for their cheaper devices,” he said.
At its media event, Microsoft revealed its already begun work with several new hardware partners, including LG, Lenovo and ZTE, though no specific devices were announced. Broaden Windows Phone’s base of manufacturers couldn’t come any sooner. With Microsoft buying Nokia’s handset division(s nok), the risk is only increasing that Windows will be considered a Nokia-only OS.