Windows Phone on Verizon this year could boost Microsoft, Nokia

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Verizon Wireless will launch a Windows Phone 8 handset this year built by Nokia, showing support for Microsoft’s smartphone platform on the biggest U.S. carrier. Bloomberg reported the development on Wednesday, citing “a person with knowledge of the matter.” If correct and Verizon provides a major marketing push, both Microsoft and Nokia stand to gain greatly as the uptake of Windows Phone devices has been relatively slow compared to both Android phones and the iPhone.

To date, Verizon hasn’t been on board with Microsoft when it comes to Windows Phone. The network operator was among the last of those to offer a Windows Phone and it limited consumer’s choice to just a single model: The uninspiring HTC Trophy more than a year ago. But the timing of this report sounds right from my perspective.

If people want Windows Phone handsets — and admittedly, that does remain to be seen — Verizon has to keep up with its peers who offer smartphones powered by Microsoft. Nokia already has experience making a Windows Phone with LTE support — the Lumia 900 is a perfect example of a solid smartphone with 4G capabilities — and Verizon can play up its lead in LTE coverage with a new Nokia model. And there happens to be a joint press event with Microsoft and Nokia in New York City on Sept. 5. It’s widely expected that the new Windows Phone 8 devices will be announced and Verizon could appear as a leader for the new smartphone software by backing it on day one.

Windows Phone sales are growing — faster than that of its peers — but the high growth rate is due to sales starting at zero just two years ago. When it comes to actual sales numbers, Windows Phone shipments to carriers for the second quarter this year were 5.2 5.4 million, per IDC. (Note: IDC includes old Windows Mobile handsets as well in that figure.) To put that in perspective: Google activates roughly that many new Android devices in just 5 days.

That’s why the platform needs more support from a carrier such as Verizon. When nearly 95 million current Verizon Wireless customers don’t have a viable Windows Phone option, that’s not good for Microsoft, nor its partners. Even if Verizon does release one or more Windows Phones from Nokia or other partners, I wouldn’t expect double-digit market share for Windows Phone just yet. But with Research In Motion putting off a major overhaul of its smartphone line until 2013, I still believe Windows Phone can grow its quarterly market share past that of BlackBerry in the last quarter of this year.

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