Sprint, which was the only one of the four major U.S. wireless carriers to fail to do so, today said it will now begin carrying smartphones running the Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system from Microsoft.
Sprint was noticeably absent from a Microsoft launch event in San Francisco Oct. 29, 2011, at which Windows Phone 8 was officially introduced. Microsoft announced that AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile would start selling devices running WP8. Also, this reporter noted that Sprint was unusually guarded about its support for WP8 just a few days earlier at its annual Sprint Open Solutions Conference for developers, held here in San Jose.
While Sprint and the other carriers carried phones running Windows Phone 7 after it was introduced in 2010, sales of Windows phones have been weak, especially in contrast to the global juggernaut of volume leader Samsung (running the Google Android OS) and the strong customer loyalty of owners of Apple iPhones. When Windows Phone 8 appeared, and even earned positive reviews, Sprint still seemed to take a wait-and-see attitude.
Sprint said Monday that subscribers will be able to get their Windows Phone 8 device with its Sprint’s Everything Data Plan, which offers unlimited Web surfing, texting and calling to and from any mobile in America while on the Sprint Network. It adds that the $79.99 per month service plan price is $20 less than a comparable plan from rival Verizon Wireless.
Notably, the Sprint lineup does not include any models from Nokia, such as the popular Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8. Nokia and Microsoft entered into a partnership with each other in 2011 in which Nokia would replace its own Symbian OS with Windows Phone. It was a deal seen as a savior for both companies, which had fallen behind Apple and Samsung, both on the hardware and software sides of the business.
Preliminary numbers from the research firm IDC show Windows Phone 8 has its work cut out for it. On Dec. 4, IDC released a report predicting that smartphones running the Google Android OS, including Samsung models, would finish 2012 commanding a 68.3 percent share of the global smartphone market, based on OS, follow by Apple iOS at 18.8 percent and RIM BlackBerry at 4.7 percent.
Microsoft, however, was expected to capture only a 2.6 percent share in 2012, based on units sold. Microsoft does have something to hang its hat on, though. IDC forecasts Windows Phone to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 71.3 percent between now and 2016, to reach 11.4 percent share.
That makes sewing up today’s deal with Sprint good news for Microsoft.