In spite of becoming a Windows Phone maker in its own right via its purchase of Nokia's handset business, Microsoft is still managing to add new Windows Phone partners to its roster.
New to the Windows Phone OEM list are Foxconn, Gionee, JSR, Karbonn, Lava (Xolo), Lenovo, LG, Longcheer and ZTE, according to Microsoft officials. (I'm not sure why ZTE is listed as new, given they were a previous Windows Phone partner. Ditto with LG, which had multiple Windows Phone 7 phones in market, as a couple of readers recalled. Maybe this is more of a list of new, plus "they're back!" partners.)
These new Windows Phone 8 partners will supplement the existing Windows Phone partners -- HTC, Samsung and Huawei -- according to company officials who shared the updated list at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) show in Barcelona on February 23.
Microsoft execs didn't say when these new partners would be bringing new handsets or designs to market. Nor did company execs say much about Windows Phone 8.1 (codenamed "Blue"), beyond mentioning that "a compelling new update for Windows Phone" is on its way to market. Many of the coming features in Windows Phone 8.1 have leaked to the Web, especially in recent weeks following Microsoft making the software development kit (SDK) for that OS release available to certain testers.
Microsoft is expected to release to manufacturing Windows Phone 8.1 right around the time of its Build 2014 conference in early April and make the OS available to all developers at that time. Users won't likely start receiving the new OS preloaded on new phones and delivered as updates to their existing Windows Phone 8 devices for a month or two beyond that.
Execs did say -- without ever calling Windows Phone 8.1 by its name -- that Microsoft will be delivering more enterprise functionality with Windows Phone going forward. New enterprise features (which Microsoft execs last year said would be coming via an add-on pack), including S/MIME, VPN, enterprise Wi-Fi, extended mobile device management and certificate management, will be part of the coming update, officials said.
The OS will add support for Snapdragon 200 and 400 series chip sets; as well as support dual SIM for partners who want/need it, officials said. Microsoft also is removing previous Windows Phone handset requirements, like physical camera, back and search buttons on handsets, seemingly in the hopes of attracting more OEMs/Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) to build phones that can run a choice of operating systems.
The coming Windows Phone update also will include support for Facebook Messenger, officials said. Leaks have indicated that a separate Facebook app for Windows Phone also may be included along with the OS.