With the latest update – Windows Phone 8.1 – to its mobile operating system, Microsoft may have achieved parity with the Android on the software side but the company has no immediate plans to join the core race and support handsets running eight-core processors. This is in stark contrast to Android phone companies, which are rushing to market with handsets that are powered by eight-core processors.
Though to be fair to Microsoft, the benefits of eight-core processors in a phone are not yet apparent. Apple, which sells iPhones, also doesn’t use four-core or eight-core processors. The iPhone 5S uses a dual-core processor but offers ample performance for smooth user interface.
Vineet Durani, who heads Windows Phone division in Microsoft in India, told TOI that currently the company supports only Qualcomm hardware and for a foreseeable future this is not likely to change. The eight-core processors powering a number of handsets in Indian market are made by MediaTek, a Taiwanese firm. Samsung also makes eight-core processors and uses them in its high-end phones like Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S4.
Currently, Qualcomm doesn’t make eight-core processors. But the company has announced two eight-core processors — Snapdragon 615 and Snapdragon 810 – that will be available to phone companies by around the end of this year. The phones powered by these processors will come to market in 2015.
“We don’t have any plans to explore chipsets (processors and RAM etc) made by others… At this point of time companies making Windows Phone have to use the Qualcomm hardware,” said Durani. “I can’t comment on the future but I can say that we are highly committed to Qualcomm hardware. Qualcomm is a great partner and I don’t see any reason to look at anybody else right now because the objective really is to push out great devices… affordable devices and we feel that we can do it with the Qualcomm hardware.”
However, unlike in the past when Microsoft tightly controlled the Windows Phone platform, now the company is more accommodating. For local firms like Micromax and Lava it is now much easier to come out with a Windows Phone device. The most important change has been removal of the license fee that Microsoft used to charge for Windows Phone OS.
Microsoft has tied up with Chinese ODMs (original design manufacturers) like Foxconn and Longcheer. Any company that wants to enter the Windows Phone market can buy handsets from these ODMs and sell units locally after rebranding them. This is similar to the model used by many Indian phone companies for Android phones.
“The only difference (from Android ecosystem) is that we require certain level of hardware performance for a Windows Phone device. We have licensing agreements with Chinese ODMs and (local) companies can directly approach the ODMs to get Windows Phone devices. They don’t even have to talk to Microsoft India,” said Durani.
He said that hardware requirements are to make sure that Windows Phone users get a good experience. “Because you are adhering to a certain set of specifications, the performance of all Windows Phone devices is at a level that is acceptable to us,” said Durani.