Microsoft exec doesn't rule out Intel-based Windows Phones

CEO Ballmer's praise for Qualcomm chips at CES doesn't mean it is an exclusive partnership

LAS VEGAS - After Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a surprise appearance during a Qualcomm keynote at International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), some analysts wondered how married the company is to Snapdragon chips and the ARM-based ecosystem.

Specifically, some said, will Windows Phone smartphones ever run on Intel chips?

"We have nothing to announce at this time," about Windows Phone running on Intel, Greg Sullivan, a senior product manager for Windows Phone told Computerworld at CES. Still, he left a wide opening for alternatives to Qualcomm's Snapdragon, which is widely deployed on phones by many manufacturers.

"Our architecture is such that it's hardware independent. For the same reason that Windows 8 [tablets] could run on 'Wintel', right now Windows Phone is on Qualcomm. We have a portable OS architecture."

Several analysts at CES said Sullivan's answer sounded like Microsoft will eventually work with manufacturers to offer Intel-based smartphones. And why shouldn't it, since Lenovo Motorola, ZTE and and other phone makers are building smartphones for Europe and China on Atom and other Intel chips?

In fact, China might be the reason that Microsoft could support an Intel-based phone. Windows Phone 8 on Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor is "selling like hotcakes in China," Sullivan said. In theory, a Windows Phone on Intel could lower prices for smartphones even further than now in China and other locales.

Microsoft is also gaining success with Nokia's Windows Phones in the U.S., Sullivan said, although Microsoft has not shared any sales numbers.

At the Qualcomm keynote on Tuesday night, Ballmer said that Windows Phone 8 sales in November were four times higher than in November a year earlier. Sullivan also noted that sales were five times higher for the last week of December when compared with a year earlier.

"The sales trends are there for Windows Phone," Sullivan said. "They are going in the right directly absolutely and strongly."

In the U.S., all four major carriers offer Windows Phones, and Verizon and T-Mobile USA both announced at CES that they would be adding more Windows Phones to their lineup.

"There's sales momentum, carrier momentum, and app momentum, with 125,000 apps," Sullivan noted.

Sullivan acknowledged there's a long way to go to even gain 10% market share in smartphones, with Windows Phone at less than 5%. Still, he said focus group research shows an increase in how often consumers consider buying a Windows Phone, which is helped by a robust marketing campaign that some reports have put at more than $1 billion for the Windows Phone 8.

"With Windows Phone 8, we're in this for the long haul," Sullivan said. "We used to think about Windows as software on a PC, but it's also on the server and in the cloud and in Skybox and other serviceseven Xbox. Windows is not only Windows and Windows Phone. It's across all parts of Microsoft."

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Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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