For Microsoft, the entry-level smartphone market remains the nut Windows Phone has to crack if it's to get a decent foothold against Android, iOS and BlackBerry OS, and circa 2013 the key to that is getting Chinese smartphone makers interested.
So despite its hit-and-miss track record, its no surprise to see DigiTimes reporting that Microsoft is putting together a Windows Phone 8 reference design to spur the release of new WP8 handsets in China and other emerging markets in the second half of the year.
Microsoft is said to be working with chipset maker Qualcomm and others to put together the reference device, which will be released in mid-2013 with the aim of expanding the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem downmarket.
So far the likes of Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE have all announced their intentions to hop on board the WP8 train, but their offerings look set to simply increase competition in areas of the market where Windows Phone is already present.
The reference handset will provide a benchmark for those looking to get involved at the entry-level and mid-range segments, anticipating the downward movement of WP8 handsets to compensate for the limited lifespan of the current WP7.8 division.
Aside from Qualcomm, DigiTimes' sources also claim Microsoft is working with MediaTek, a company with strong business ties in China which has also collaborated in the past on Windows Mobile-based reference designs.