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Microsoft may have some Windows Phone 8 momentum after all

It's amazing what a smartphone OS with a future can do.

Earlier this year, Nokia stole the show at CES with the sleek and beautiful Lumia 900 smartphone running Windows Phone 7.5. It won numerous awards and accolades, similar to the Palm Pre a few years back.

If I'm comparing it to the Pre, you know where this is going.

Nokia didn't ship the phone until spring, on Easter Sunday (and man, were the AT&T Store employees grumpy about having to work on that holiday). Then, just a few months later, we got word that the Lumia 900 was a dead end. Windows Phone 8, another major leap in the phone OS, would not work on existing hardware.

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And just like that the Lumia 900 was dead in the water. Windows Phone spent the summer going nowhere and we were all preparing obituaries for Nokia.

Now, Windows Phone 8 is out on some upgraded Nokia and HTC hardware, and it's looking good. Backed by a TV blitz featuring singer Gwen Stefani and actress Jessica Alba, Microsoft is making a big push for the new phone.

And it seems to be working. Now armed with a phone that isn't immediately obsolete, WP is picking up a little steam. It won't displace Android or Apple anytime soon, but at least the figures are headed in the right direction.

Sales of the Nokia Lumia 920 are better than expected, according to a financial analyst, and have caused him to raise his predictions for WP8 sales drastically for 2013. Ilkka Rauvola, an analyst with Danske Bank, sent a note to clients in late November predicting 36 million Windows Phone 8 smartphones will be sold in 2013, up from an earlier estimate of 23 million devices.

At the annual shareholder meeting in Seattle last week, CEO Steve Ballmer said that WP8 was selling at four times the rate of WP7 phones during the same period last year. Numbers from Gartner don't quite back that up, but they do definitely point to an upside. In Q3 of 2011, Microsoft sold 1.7 million WP7 devices. In Q3 of 2012, it sold 4 million.

Of course, context is everything. Nokia still sold more Symbian phones (4.4 million) and RIM sold twice as many phones despite being in a death spiral. Still, it helps. Every little bit helps. Nokia went from one carrier (AT&T) to three (Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile). Now what they need is positive momentum, as opposed to being the last phone standing after Android and Apple kill off the competition.

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