Microsoft has signed a deal with Qualcomm, the US mobile phone chip maker, that will make it easier and quicker to build advanced smartphones running Microsoft Mobile Windows operating system.

Under the agreement, which could help Microsoft boost its share of the smartphone operating system market, Qualcomm will build support for the Windows Mobile operating system into its next generation Mobile Station Modem (MSM) chipsets.

Microsoft has been putting increasing effort into its attempts to establish Windows Mobile as one of the leading smartphone operating systems alongside rivals such as Symbian, the Palm operating system and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry device platform.

The deal with Qualcomm could significantly reduce the time it takes to design and develop a new Windows mobile-powered smartphone, because it will remove much of the custom development work device makers previously undertook to build 3G Windows Mobile devices using Qualcomm chips.

As a result, it should help phone makers to develop more affordable, feature-rich Windows Mobile powered phones, while also providing users with extended battery life and enabling them to run a broad range of familiar Windows business and entertainment software applications.

“Having support for Windows Mobile on Qualcomm’s MSM chipsets will bring a familiar software experience to the next generation of smaller, lighter phones with more appealing form factors,” said Sanjay Jha, president of Qualcomm’s CDMA technologies division.

The new Qualcomm chips supporting Windows Mobile 5.0 are due to begin shipping in the second half of 2006 and are expected to begin appearing in new smartphones next year.

Qualcomm is the second-largest mobile chip supplier after Texas Instruments and the leading supplier of chips used in mobile handsets built around CDMA (code division multiple access) technology.

After a relatively slow start, demand for Windows Mobile-based smartphones and converged communications devices has been growing strongly over the past 18 months.

Today there are 47 device makers shipping Windows Mobile devices with 115 mobile operators in 55 countries. Gartner, the US-based market research firm, estimates that sales of Windows Mobile-based smartphones will reach 64.5 million by 2009.

“We know that mobile operators are eager to attract and retain subscribers with an affordable portfolio of Windows Mobile-powered devices,” said Pieter Knook, senior vice-president of Microsoft’s mobile and embedded devices division. “More and more of their customers want capabilities such as mobile e-mail and Office productivity programs in a familiar and easy-to-use software experience.”

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