Microsoft is furthering efforts to promote the Windows Phone system, and may have found a new partner in an old rival: Sony.
According to The Information, Sony is considering the launch of a new Windows Phone handset as soon as the middle of 2014. Citing a person with knowledge of the matter and another briefed on the new device, the publication says that while Sony has exclusively released smartphones running on Google's Android operating system, the electronics maker could be one of many lured to the Windows Phone front -- thanks to financial incentives. Talks have apparently progressed to the point of prototype device designs.
Microsoft is apparently luring handset makers with the promise of incentives including slashed software licensing fees, and is looking to attract partners including Sony and ZTE.
If ZTE is indeed in talks with Microsoft, a deal could help the Chinese telecom equipment maker towards its goal of becoming one of the world's top three handset makers by shipment volume by 2016. ZTE spokesman David Dai said that the firm is looking at markets within the United States, India, China and Russia in particular, as well as having established a dedicated mobile device business group to further drive its smartphone business.
The group is focused on producing both low and high-end handsets. If Microsoft is confirmed to be offering licensing deals, it may be that firms such as ZTE could produce low-cost, entry-level smartphones for emerging markets in areas such as India -- and despite fierce competition from companies such as Apple and Samsung -- the move could boost the number of Windows Phone users.
"With a separate handset business group, we can respond timely to fast-changing customer demand by launching new smartphone models quickly."
The Windows Phone has been losing out in the mobile device space against larger rivals including Google and Apple, developers of the Android and iOS operating systems. While announcing of the acquisition of Nokia's mobile device business, the Redmond giant stated that the OS would hold a 15 percent in 2018, however, other parties seem to think otherwise. Research firm IDC projects a share of 10 percent for Windows Phone in 2017, far lower than its rather optimistic outlook of 20 percent in 2015 made three years ago.
ZDNet has contacted Sony and will update if we hear back.