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Nokia may have sold 1.3 million Lumia handsets running on Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, which would be a morale boost for both companies. Nokia’s(s nok) smartphone share has been in decline since the arrival of the iPhone(s aapl) and Google Android(s goog) handsets in recent years. Microsoft(s msft) has followed a similar fate with its old Windows Mobile operating system, which it dropped in favor of its new Windows Phone software.
The sales estimate is actually an average of 22 estimates, ranging from 800,000 to 2 million handsets. Bloomberg compiled the data and reported the average, noting that only one analyst predicted fewer than one million sales. Note that estimates are for 2011, and the Lumia line didn’t actually go on sale until November; with a full calendar quarter of sales, they surely would be higher.
Nokia is expected to report the actual number of Lumia sales later this week in an investor call, so we’ll see how the analysts (and Nokia) did. I suspect 2011 Lumia sales will top one million units, but not by much because of the staged geographic rollout of the devices in November and December. Either way, the number of sales is sure to ignite debate over whether Nokia — and Microsoft, for that matter — are on track for success.
Given that the company essentially turned a supertanker 180-degrees in under a year by merging another company’s mobile platform with Nokia’s traditionally excellent hardware, I think a million or more sales bodes well. The vibe at CES was also positive. My own recent conversations with Nokia and Microsoft executives show a hunger and underdog mentality that’s long been missing. This year is likely to be a continued push of the Lumia 710, 800 and 900 devices, with new devices held up until Nokia World in the fall.
If Lumia sales continue to grow as Nokia expands the regional availability, newer devices with a greater range of Nokia customizations can build upon the success. Microsoft, too, should be happy and gaining more confidence. A year ago, Windows Phone shipment estimates were a scant 2.5 million units for all partners combined. Now that Microsoft has a close partner with a global brand on the hardware side, its long-term strategy is starting to bear fruit.
I’m on the record saying Windows Phone market share will surpass that of BlackBerry (s rimm) by the end of 2012. It’s a bold claim — although RIM continuing down its old path with a new CEO may help it come true — but if the Microsoft-Nokia partnership can continue building momentum with consumers and developers, both have a chance to get back in the smartphone game.