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Sub-$200 Windows Phone handsets on the way, says Microsoft

New partners could have handsets out by the end of the year, an executive said

Nick Parker, vice president of OEM partnerships at Microsoft, shows off a new 2-in-1 laptop and tablet from HP at Computex 2014 in Taipei

Nick Parker, vice president of OEM partnerships at Microsoft, shows off a new 2-in-1 laptop and tablet from HP at Computex 2014 in Taipei

Cheaper smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system are on the way, according to a Microsoft executive.

Speaking at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Microsoft's Nick Parker, who handles the company's partnerships with device makers, said the new handsets could be out by the end of the year.

Compared to current models, which are in the "fours, fives and sixes," he said referring to prices between $400 and $699, the new phones would have price points in the "ones, twos and threes."

Asked to clarify if he was referring to end-market prices without carrier subsidies, Parker said he was.

He didn't identify the manufacturers that would be bringing the phones to market, but there's a good chance they are among nine companies Microsoft signed up to its Windows Phone development program earlier this year.

In addition to existing partners Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Huawei, Microsoft added Foxconn, Gionee, Lava (Xolo), Lenovo, LG, Longcheer, JSR, Karbonn and ZTE.

Some of the new partners have significant market share in developing countries where phones generally have lower prices than in developed markets.

Microsoft launched the latest version of its Windows Phone operating system, Windows Phone 8, in late 2012 to critical praise. The operating system was slow to catch on with consumers though, perhaps due to the absence of several popular apps on the platform, but has been slowly increasing its market share.

Windows Phone had a 3 percent share of the smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2013, up from 2.6 percent in the last three months of 2012, according to IDC. In contrast, Google's Android dominated the smartphone market at the end of 2013 with a 78.1 percent share. Apple's iOS was in second place at 17.6 percent.

IDC forecasts Windows Phone will continue to increase its market share to hit 7 percent in 2018.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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