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Uh oh. Nokia Windows Phone sales estimates slashed.

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Nokia’s(s nok) sales of Windows Phone(s msft) handsets aren’t impressing at least one analyst, who has drastically cut estimates, says Forbes. (s twx) Instead of 2 million sales for this quarter, Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette is dropping expectations down to just 500,000 units. This follows a report last Friday from Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu, who noted that Google Trends (s goog) data suggests as much “buzz” for the Nokia Lumia 800 as the company’s N8 Symbian phone. (s nok)

Nokia’s Lumia 710 and 800 phones have only been available in limited markets for about a month. The company just began transitioning away from its Symbian operating system, and these are the first handsets powered by Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform. As a result, it could take time for Nokia sales to start ramping up. The timing is right though; Microsoft recently improved its mobile platform with the Mango software update, which I find to be impressive.

Equally impressive is the hardware Nokia paired with Windows Phones 7.5. The new Lumia 800 may be one of the nicest, most well-designed smartphones I’ve ever held. I’ll have a full review of the phone shortly, but suffice it say: It’s the best Windows Phone I’ve used yet. But maybe that’s part of the problem.

Consumers have essentially witnessed a two-horse smartphone race since 2008, and Microsoft wasn’t one of those horses. Google Android and Apple(s aapl) iOS phones have taken the lion’s share of market growth, while phones running on Palm(s hpq), BlackBerry(s rimm) and Symbian have either lost ground or been treading water. It’s going to take time for any Microsoft-powered handset to build momentum, even if the software and platform ecosystem are improving.

The other factor here is Nokia’s implementation of a Windows Phone. As I mentioned, the hardware is well done. But there are very few software advantages gained from a Nokia Windows Phone over one from LG, Samsung or HTC. Nokia devices do come with Nokia Drive — a great free navigation app — and Music Mix, but little else in the way of differentiation.

Regardless of Lumia sales, Nokia has to keep pushing the platform in ways its peers aren’t. Microsoft may grab the third spot in the smartphone hierarchy, but unless it continues to grab the attention of consumers, that No. 3 slot may end up being insignificant.

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