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Qualcomm: optimising for Windows Phone took years not months

I had a chat with Qualcomm’s Raj Talluri here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Of course I asked about the Nokia-Microsoft deal and the implications for Qualcomm. Currently Microsoft specify Qualcomm’s Snapdragon as the required chipset for Windows Phone 7 devices: good for Qualcomm, not so good for Microsoft since it means competing system-on-a-chip vendors like TI and NVidia are putting all their efforts into Android or other mobile operating systems.

“We are extremely pleased and we are very optimistic that it will bring us additional business.” said Talluri about the Nokia-Microsoft alliance. That said, might Nokia in fact choose a competing chipset for its Windows Phone devices?

It might; but the issue here is the work involved in optimising the hardware and drivers for the OS:

If you look at Windows Phone, there’s a lot of custom work we did with Microsoft that makes Windows Phone 7 really shine on Snapdragon … the amount of time we spent in getting those things optimized, it’s been a multi-year effort for us.

If you put this together with Nokia’s announced intention to ship Windows Phone devices this year, it is hard to see how it could use a chipset other than Snapdragon.

That said, those other vendors might not agree that it would take years. When I asked about this, NVidia gave me the impression that it could do the work in a few months, if there was a business case for it.

Still, it is not a trivial matter, and adds potential for delay. I think we should expect Nokia’s first Windows phones to run Qualcomm chipsets.

If the Windows Phone ecosystem builds as Nokia hopes, other chipset vendors may get involved. Then again, what are Microsoft’s plans for the Windows Phone OS long-term? Might the underlying Windows CE OS get scrapped in favour of something coming out of the Windows on Arm project? Silverlight and XNA apps should port across easily.

That is a matter for speculation, but the possibility may deter other mobile chipset manufacturers from heavy investment in Windows Phone support.

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