It's easy to count Microsoft's Windows Phone as a distant also-ran in the smartphone market, but there's some signs that it may finally be catching on. Nokia reports big sales for its Lumia line of Windows Phones, and Lenovo says that it may well launch a Windows Phone 8 line this year.
First the big surprise: Nokia had a solid fourth quarter, driven in part by solid sales of its Lumia line of Windows Phone handsets. Nokia was so pleased with its results that it released preliminary information about its fourth-quarter results, which aren't officially due until January 24. In its press release, it announced that the "Lumia portfolio delivered better than expected results." In all, it sold 4.4 million Lumia phones in the quarter. That was well above the 2.9 million it sold in the third quarter, and also more than the 4 million it sold in the second quarter.
As a result of the increased Lumia sales, as well as sizable sales for other phones and cost reductions, its Devices and Services division "achieved underlying profitability" for the quarter.
For a company that has been written off as all but dead, this is very good news. And it's very good news for Microsoft and Windows Phone, not just because of solid Lumia sales, but because it means that Nokia will continue to invest in new Windows Phone devices.
Another sign that the Windows Phone platform has some life comes from Lenovo, which will likely introduce a Windows Phone handset in 2013. JD Howard, vice president of business operations & worldwide business development at Lenovo's Mobile Internet and Digital Home (MIDH) business group, told ZDNet Asia that there is a "good chance" that Lenovo will release a Windows Phone device in 2013.
A likely reason is what appears to be booming sales of Windows Phone 8 devices in China. Greg Sullivan, a senior product manager for Windows Phone, told Computerworld that Windows Phone 8 devices are "selling like hotcakes in China." Sullivan also hinted that Windows Phone devices might at some point run on Intel chips.
At CES, Steve Ballmer made an unexpected appearance and said that sales of Windows Phone devices for November were four times higher than they were for November of last year. Don't read much into that, though, because back in late 2011 sales of Windows Phone devices were dismal at best.
I've reviewed a number of Windows Phone devices, and every one I've seen has been well-designed. I was particularly impressed with the HTC Windows Phone 8X. Nokia's Lumias are excellent as well. And recently, Consumer Reports rated Windows Phone devices highly, and put them in a virtual tie with the iPhone 5.
In some ways, the smartphone operating system is superior to both Android and the iPhone, notably for the way it delivers information to you without you having to go out and grab it. Windows Phone 8 deserves the chance it appears to be finally getting.