It's not every day that we get to report that a new manufacturer is joining the Windows Phone hardware ecosystem. Indeed, as Dell, LG and Asus have slipped away from the platform (with the latter never actually selling a production handset), there seem to be plenty of headlines written about who isn't making Windows Phones these days. Even the next-generation Windows Phone 8 devices will only be offered by four manufacturers at launch.
So the addition of a new brand offering Windows Phone hardware is certainly newsworthy - and the news today comes from French telecommunications giant Alcatel-Lucent. Two images appeared on the company's Instagram account - having been outed on Twitter by Alcatel's Russian division - featuring a previously unseen device called the "One Touch with WP". The front of the handset is not dissimilar to Samsung's first-gen Windows Phone, the Omnia 7, while the reverse offers a much more distinctive design with its bright orange bodywork.
This second image clearly shows the handset sporting the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system, while the hardware Start button features the old-style Windows flag, rather than the newer, more angular Windows Phone logo. This suggests that the device seen in these images is pre-production, meaning that the physical design of the hardware may change before the handset officially goes on sale.
The 5MP camera hints at relatively modest specs for the device, and Alcatel Russia's confirmation that it will ship with Windows Phone 7.8 also points to it being an affordable entry-level handset, although details of pricing and availability remain unknown.
This won't be the only Windows Phone 7.8 device being launched at a time when Microsoft and its partners will be heavily promoting their shiny new Windows Phone 8 handsets, such as the Samsung ATIV S, HTC Windows Phone 8X and Nokia Lumia 810. As we reported a few weeks ago, Nokia is expected to launch its new low-end Lumia 510 with WP7.8 in China.
Update: French Windows Phone site Professeur Thibault has published specs for the One Touch, including a single-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 MSM7227A, 512MB of RAM, 4" 800x480 IPS, 4GB of storage (2.9GB available to user) and a 1500mAH battery. The device is expected to go on sale in Russia for 7990 rubles ($255 USD / £160 GBP / €200 EUR).