Windows 10 coming to Xiaomi, Lenovo handsets under new Microsoft China deals

Microsoft has inked a number of deals to help Windows 10 make progress in China, particularly on mobile.

Microsoft is turning its attention towards China, striking partnerships with local companies to extend the reach of Windows 10.

At the WinHEC conference on Tuesday, Microsoft announced that Chinese company Lenovo will build at least one Windows 10-powered smartphone for release in China. The device, or devices, will be available through China's largest carrier China Mobile from the middle of this year.

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The deal adds a new smartphone partner to Microsoft's roster - the announcement marks Lenovo's first Windows or Windows Phone handset - at a time when over nine in 10 smartphones running Microsoft software are made by the company itself, following its acquisition of Nokia's devices business last year. It also follows a decision by Huawei, China's fourth largest smartphone seller, to stop producing Windows Phones.

Perhaps the most interesting announcement to come out of WinHEC, however, was a project to bring Windows 10 to Xiaomi phones. Xiaomi is now the biggest seller of smartphones in mainland China, according to some analysts reports, and one of the fastest growing: it sold 61 million handsets last year, representing year on year growth of over 200 percent.

Microsoft said that it had been working with Xiaomi to allow Chinese users to flash Windows 10 to their Mi 4 handsets.

"Through a new program with Xiaomi, one of the top smartphone distributors in the world, a select group of Xiaomi Mi 4 power users will be invited to help test Windows 10 and contribute to its future release later this year. These power users will have the opportunity to download the Windows 10 Technical Preview - installing it and providing their feedback to Microsoft," Microsoft wrote in a company blog post.

Windows Phone currently has around 0.8 percent share of the smartphone market in China, according to researchers Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Away from the smartphone space, Microsoft is also working towards shifting more Chinese users onto Windows 10 for tablets and desktops. The Redmond giant said Lenovo will be offering upgrade help to users in 2,500 outlets in China, while social network TenCent will be offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade to its users and will build a Windows 10 universal app for its QQ messaging service.

Security company Qihou, with whom Microsoft agreed a partnership to jointly develop artificial intelligence and mobile web products, will also offer its users a free upgrade to the next version of Windows.

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