With Microsoft's takeover of Nokia's devices business now more or less a done deal, questions are being raised about whether other manufacturers will continue to support the Windows Phone platform. At last count, Nokia's Lumia range accounted for an astonishing 90% of all Windows Phone sales, leading some to speculate that Microsoft's other hardware partners will turn their backs on it entirely, leaving the company to go it alone against rival smartphone platforms.
HTC, Huawei and Samsung were the first to join the company's 'rebooted' Windows Phone 8 offering, and they remain the only other manufacturers besides Nokia to offer WP handsets. Huawei recently launched its Ascend W2, but neither HTC nor Samsung have yet revealed firm plans for future devices with Microsoft's mobile OS.
While HTC's plans remain unclear, Mobile Review's Eldar Murtazin today revealed some information hinting that Samsung may yet remain a Windows Phone partner:
Another "good" news from Microsoft - company negotiate with Samsung and offer 1 billion support if vendor will produce Windows Phone devices— Eldar Murtazin (@eldarmurtazin) December 12, 2013
The suggestion that Microsoft may be offering a billion (dollars, we presume) to Samsung for its continued commitment to Windows Phone is significant, but not entirely without precedent. When Nokia joined the Windows Phone ecosystem, part of that deal included "platform support payments" of $250m per quarter - $1bn a year - from Microsoft as the Finnish company made its transition to WP.
Given the immense success that Samsung has seen with Android - and the negligible sales of its Windows Phone devices in comparison - the company has little motivation to continue investing in Windows Phone on the face of it. Against this backdrop, it would make sense that Samsung would be seeking some form of incentive from Microsoft to maintain its involvement in the platform, but at this stage, we only have Murtazin's word to go on.
Intriguingly, this report follows comments made a few weeks ago by ZTE executive vice-president He Shiyou, who confirmed that his company - which previously manufactured Windows Phone 7 devices - would be returning to the platform with new devices next year. According to He, Microsoft executives visited ZTE, saying that the company is keen to "maintain a wide network of handset makers rather than simply make its own Windows phones." More significantly, He also mentioned that Microsoft had offered certain assurances and "clarifications" regarding the support that it will offer Windows Phone partners once the Nokia deal is completed.