Nokia signs up ST-Ericsson for Windows Phones

Handset player Nokia has signed a deal with ST-Ericsson in a move that will see the chipset vendor’s NovaThor mobile application platform used in future Windows Phone devices.

ST-Ericsson said that the NovaThor platform will enable Nokia to extend Windows Phone devices to new price points and geographies, although this looks unlikely to happen until mid-2012, as Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS does not currently support dual-core chipsets, such as NovaThor, according to Ovum analyst Nick Dillon.

“This deal seems to be jumping the gun somewhat. There hasn’t been any confirmation from Microsoft yet as to when Windows Phones will actually be allowed to support dual-core chips and they haven’t even actually confirmed that ST-Ericsson chips will be part of the spec for them, because Microsoft very tightly controls what hardware is allowed to be used on its platform,” said Dillon.

“It is expected that Microsoft will support dual-core chipsets sometime in the future, but this is looking like it’ll happen quite a way into 2012. By that time, I’d expect they will have tweaked the specification, such as when they launched Mango release; they opened up the platform to some more slightly cheaper chips that Qualcomm supply, mainly to accommodate for Nokia wanting to push down the price point of its devices.”

The deal with ST-Ericsson marks the end to the monopoly Qualcomm has had until now for Microsoft’s mobile platform, and Dillon suggested that Nokia may even be looking to eventually phase out Qualcomm chipsets from its offerings.

“It’s not quite clear whether ST-Ericsson will be a total replacement [to Qualcomm] or a second supplier, but ST Ericsson’s CEO has hinted in the past that this may be a total replacement. Given Nokia’s ambition for Windows Phones, this is a huge win for ST Ericsson,” said Dillon.

He added that this may open doors for other Windows Phone suppliers, such as ZTE, to push down the price point of Windows handsets by using cheaper chips.

“Previously Qualcomm was the sole supplier to Windows Phones, so quite a hit for them, but it could open up more competition. If other OEMs follow suit, it’ll open up competition and could benefit the customers by bringing price points down quicker than they otherwise would have if they’re able to use cheaper chips.”

He added that for the time being though, Qualcomm will still have a significant advantage over competing chipset vendors due to its experience and time-optimising its chipset for the platform.

“It’s going to have a head-start of at least two to three years in terms of how its chips run on the platform.”

A Nokia spokesperson, however, told that it “continues to have a good working relationship with Qualcomm.”

Meanwhile, HP announced that it plans to use ARM’s chipset designs in its next servers. ARM’s chip architecture had been developed for use in smartphones and other mobile devices.

HP claims that the servers would be cheaper to run than current alternatives, while UK-based ARM said the deal was “a first step” into a sector dominated by Intel’s X86-based processors.

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