The semi-accurate DigiTimes said on Friday that Microsoft is currently working with Qualcomm and other chipset suppliers to develop a Windows Phone 8 reference design. Unnamed industry sources claim this design will be used for entry-level and mid-range smartphones that will be sold in China and other emerging markets.
Sources told the site that Qualcomm will likely jump on board the reference design bandwagon because it's already supplying chipset solutions for Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.5-based devices currently on the market. MediaTek, known for producing inexpensive chipsets, will also likely join the reference club due to its strong business ties with China-based smartphone OEMs, and its prior experience with Windows Mobile-based reference designs.
The new Windows Phone 8 reference design should help Microsoft expand the ecosystem and market share of its new mobile platform, sources said, even though Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE have already announced Windows Phone 8 products for 2013. The reference design itself is expected to arrive in mid-2013, and products based on that design in the second half of the year.
As UnwiredView points out, Huawei's Ascend W1 is priced around $260 USD whereas Nokia's Lumia 620 costs around $300 USD. With the new reference design, Microsoft will want to shoot lower than the $200 price tag so that the resulting phones will have a better chance of competing with the low-cost Android smartphones saturating the market.
That said, Microsoft's reference design may actually address the low-end and mid-range sectors on a global scale, not just the emerging markets.
The only major thing that the WP environment is missing is the rich developer support that iOS and Android have nurtured over the years. And really, who can blame the developers? WP simply has no market share. The reasons for this is simple;
1) WinMo users moved to the much more gadgitey Android platform than the overly simplified WP7
2) When WP7 first came out it was way behind the times, and by the time WP7.5 came out a lot of potential buyers (myself included) were waiting for WP8 to come out in a few months.
3) While the WP8 lineup is pretty nice, and there are no really 'bad' WP8 devices on the market, they are all essentially the same guts with a different case and screen, which puts them all in a very similar performance and price bracket. Compare that to the Android market where you can go in and say 'I want these features' and there is probably an android device that has that feature set somewhere. Also, stupid moves like putting SD card slots in base model phones, but not on the high end phones is a real head scratcher that really needs to go away, and is my only substantial complaint about my Lumia 920 (though it has not been as bad as I feared it would be).
4) while high end WP8 devices are not as expensive as high end Android or iOS devices, there are still no really 'cheap' WP8 devices either. That being said, the $100 I paid with contract is easy to swallow for what I got, but if my phone were to break outside of warranty but before my contract was up then I would not purchase another WP8 device to tide me over until I get another discount phone, I would be forced to switch to a cheap Android simply because it would be affordable to get an off contract $200 Android phone to hold me over for a few months rather than buying another $400+ WP8 device.
5) While it is kinda sad, we need to be honest. Most Android phones are trash. Yes, the SGS3, and other high end phones are freaking sweet, but the bulk of smartphone users are simply getting whatever comes free with contract, or they are getting a cheaper prepaid option and cannot afford something more powerful than a $150 'phone with a smartphone OS, but is not quite fast enough to get the smartphone expierence'. MS has been deathly afraid of the cheap market, and has been much more concerned about keeping all WP8 devices as pretty nice machines, and avoiding the discount market because it might 'hurt the brand'. The argument has been that if you want a cheap WP device, then you go get a WP7.5 or 7.8 device, but people want cheap new phones, they do not want old (or seemingly old) devices no matter what the price is. This is a huge market that would love the simplicity of WP8, and they have been very short sighted to not persue it yet.
It's all over the Internets: http://www.engadget.com/2012/12/06/nokia-lumia-620-hands-on-249-for-windows-phone-8/