All the Windows Phones that currently ship are built on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform. Microsoft, in a bid to accelerate time to market and make it easy for developers to have one reference platform to concentrate on, poured all their resources to optimizing for one chip and then forced every handset maker to use the same solution. Combine that with their restrictions on what type of home screen customizations you can perform, and you’re left with vendors struggling to differentiate with something other than hardware design. That’s do to change if a report coming out of Reuters is true; the CEO of ST-Ericsson said that their U8500 platform is ready for Nokia to use when they start ramping up sales of Windows Phones and that “a lot of new Tier 1 customers are using our platforms”.
The U8500 is a lot like the Samsung Exynos 4210, previously known as “Orion”. They both have a pair of ARM Cortex A9 processors and an ARM Mali 400 GPU. What makes the U8500 special however is that there is a built in HSPA modem capable of doing 21 Mbps download speeds. The U8500 also has built in WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and even FM radio, which effectively makes ST-Ericsson the perfect competitor to Qualcomm who offers the same thing with the Snapdragon.
Why would someone want to use the U8500 instead of something like a dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon? That’s a very good question, and one that’s difficult to answer. Perhaps Microsoft wanted to diversify their list of partners instead of betting their future on one company? Or maybe they wanted to support ST-Ericsson because they’re Nokia’s customer of choice when it comes to chips and Microsoft doesn’t want to ruin that relationship since Nokia and Qualcomm aren’t exactly known to be the best of friends?
It’s all speculation at this point.