Since the announcement of Windows Phone 8 in San Francisco, the world is anxiously waiting to see what Windows Phone 8 handsets will look like as “sexy designs” will be sorely needed to sell devices fast enough for Microsoft to reach a critical mass that will officially make them what we already know they are: the only other mobile OS contender next to Android and iOS.
While phone designs won’t appear in the short terms, we already know what’s going to be inside those Windows smartphones: the Snapdragon S4 Plus line of processors. You may have used some of them in handsets like the HTC EVO 4G LTE, or the U.S version of the Samsung Galaxy S3.
Microsoft has historically used a single chip vendor -Qualcomm- for Windows Phones, most likely because it saved development time as it was Microsoft engineers who wrote a lot of the driver code. Although Windows Phone 8 uses the Windows Driver Model, which allows third parties to write their own driver, it is fair to assume that this single-vendor situation is going to evolve relatively slowly. While Microsoft and Qualcomm do not have an exclusive deal for say, we think that Qualcomm will remain the sole Windows Phone chip provider for the rest of 2012.
Despite heated competition on the chip performance front, Qualcomm has done very well, thanks to the advantage it has with its integrated 4G LTE modems which can cater to the *huge* US-based wireless carrier who absolutely want to push 4G LTE as hard as they can. This creates a market pressure for handset vendors to provide LTE solution that only Qualcomm seem to be able to fulfill. In the USA, Samsung had to drop its own Exynos chip from the Galaxy S3 in favor of Qualcomm’s.
Given that NVIDIA has won the Microsoft Surface tablet design, it means that it has already developed Windows 8 drivers, so we can assume that they too will eventually enter that Windows Phone market, but most likely in 2013, probably with the next-generation Tegra chip. As of now, there is no sign of other chip vendors like Texas Instrument (TI) or ST Ericsson, but if the Windows for ARM market skyrockets, you can expect everyone to want a piece of the action – and don’t forget that Intel is never too far away.