Cell phone maker signals a plan to sell into lower end of mobile market, where Apple and Google are less of a threat.
Slideshow: 7 Hottest Features In Windows Phone 7 Mango
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Nokia is adding ST-Ericsson to its roster of chip suppliers for Windows Phone-based devices, with an eye to boosting sales volumes for phones that run Microsoft's mobile operating system by offering them at multiple price points.
The deal announced Tuesday means that, in addition to Qualcomm's high-end Snapdragon processor, Windows Phones will be available on ST-Ericsson's mass market NovaThor system-on-a-chip platform.
"We are pleased to have been selected as a partner for Windows smartphones, in line with our goal to be present in all segments and major operating systems," said Gilles Delfassy, president and CEO of ST Ericsson, in a statement. "Our NovaThor platforms continue to gain traction as they enable customers to bring great smartphones to the market."
Delfassy told Dow Jones that the agreement applies to the next version of Windows Phone, which likely will be called Windows Phone 8. "Hence, the deal isn't an immediate undertaking," he told the newswire.
The news signals a plan by Microsoft and Nokia to build Windows Phone market share by complementing their high-end, full featured offerings, like the forthcoming Nokia Lumia 800, with midrange and even low-end devices that won't compete directly with Apple's iPhone or smartphones that run Google's Android OS.
Microsoft officials in the past have said they would like to see the price of some Windows Phone models fall below $200.
The plan makes sense. To date, Microsoft has had only limited success with Windows Phone. Despite receiving a number of positive technical reviews, the OS holds market share in the U.S. of less than 6%, compared to about 27% for Apple and 44% for market leader Google, according to the latest numbers from Comscore.
Microsoft is also counting on the recent release of Windows Phone 7.5, also known as Mango, to spur Windows Phone sales. The upgrade adds more than 500 new features to the Windows Phone platform.
A feature called Threads lets users glide between text, Windows Live Messenger, and Facebook chat within the same "conversation." Groups lets users receive and send messages from predefined social or business circles directly to and from the Smart Tiles home screen.
Contact Cards have been enhanced to include feeds from Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as previously supported networks. Another new addition, Local Scout, which is integrated with Bing, yields hyper-local search results for dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Mango also adds long-awaited multitasking capability, which lets users move freely between applications and pick up and resume where they left off, and 4G wireless support is embedded. For security-conscious enterprise customers, Mango adds support for various rights management technologies.
For example, it lets authorized users open emails tagged with restrictions such as "do not forward" or "do not copy." Additionally, it beefs up integration with authoring and collaboration tools like Lync and Office 365.
In the U.S., Windows Phone is available on the AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile networks.