You know those rumors about Microsoft doing its own Windows Phone 8 design that were squashed a few months ago? Well, they are on again, if you trust the source.
DigiTimes, the Taiwanese tech news site that's as hit as it is miss, reports that Microsoft is working with Qualcomm on development of a low-end to mid-range Windows Phone 8 reference design specifically aimed at smartphone makers in China and other emerging markets.
The site goes on to say Microsoft would release the WP8 reference design in mid-2013, with phones based on the reference design to hit the market in the second half of the year.
Qualcomm's chips are already in the current lineup of Lumia phones, with the Lumia 920 and 820 using the Krait chip, part of the Snapdragon line of ARM SoCs. The HTC 8X, the only non-Nokia WP8 currently on the market, also uses the Krait and Samsung's forthcoming ATIV S, which is essentially the Galaxy S III running WP8, will also use the Krait.
For the Chinese phones, Microsoft will work with MediaTek, a chipset vendor with experience in Window Mobile-based reference designs and strong connections to the Chinese smartphone makers, according to DigiTimes.
Microsoft already has the top-tier smartphone vendors in China on board, including Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE. All three have plans to launch WP8 phones in 2013, but the reference design will be for cheaper, more affordable phones. Given the Lumia 920 is already selling for $99, they clearly don't need it for the U.S. market.
Or do they? Android is dominating at the low end, and that includes the free market. You can get Android phones at the no-contract vendors, disposable phones, or for free from the big four wireless vendors. The only competition for Android is poor knockoffs of smartphones, feature phones, and obsolete BlackBerrys.
As Gizmodo rather harshly pointed out last week http://gizmodo.com/5977625/android-is-popular-because-its-cheap-not-because-its-good (is there any other way with them?), Android is doing well not because it's good but because it's cheap. Successful Android phones like the Galaxy S III are a combination of great hardware and value-added software.
It's come down to a two-horse race of Android and iOS and Apple is not interested in aggressively pursuing the bottom portions of the market. Apple has pretty much left Android to itself in that market, and if you've ever used a low-end Android phone, you know one thing: those things are junk.
Even a basic smartphone running vanilla Windows Phone 8 would be preferable to vanilla Android in more ways than one. So this could be a good thing for the U.S. market at some point. At this point, Microsoft can't pass on any potential markets.