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The Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 represent the latest and perhaps last-chance effort made by Nokia to recapture some of the market share it has lost to rivals over the past few years. In the U.S. market, particularly, the Finnish handset maker has struggled to keep up. Recent research from market analyst ComScore suggests Nokia has failed to nab a seat among the top five smartphone makers in the U.S., while Apple and Samsung account collectively for nearly 40 percent of the market.
The stakes are high for Microsoft, as well. The software giant has struggled to position Windows Phone as a serious contender to Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms. Nearly 3.8 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers use Windows Phone OS, a number that pales in comparison to Android's 51.6 percent and iOS' 32.4 percent.
But, according to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8 are the culmination of the long-running Microsoft-Nokia partnership, and are poised to shake up the overall smartphone market.
"This is a very important milestone. In a sense, it is unbelievable how far we have come in just 18 months of working with Nokia," Ballmer told the crowd Wednesday during the Lumia 920 launch event in New York City. "It was a full-out sprint to deliver the first line of products, and you start to really see the incredible power of the partnership kick in at this stage."
Ballmer emphasized the ability of the new Windows Phone 8-based Lumia 920 to synch and share content with other PCs, tablets and hybrid devices set to launch running Windows 8 in October. He also positioned this capability as being a major draw for app developers, allowing them to build a piece of software once but deploy it across the nearly 400 million devices projected to run some flavor of Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 over the next year.
"Make no mistake about it -- this is the year for Windows," Ballmer said. "Those devices running Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 I am quite sure represent the largest single opportunity available for software developers today," he continued.
The ability for users to share content across the entire Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 family of devices is projected by U.K.-based analyst firm Ovum to be one of the biggest potential drivers behind adoption of the two platforms.
"The clear benefits to businesses from the ready integration possible across Microsoft’s products set will set a benchmark for BYOD strategies focused on out-of-box device capabilities once Microsoft’s full range of new platforms is available," wrote Tony Cripps, principal analyst at Ovum, in a research note.
Still, Cripps noted that both Microsoft and Nokia face an uphill battle against smartphone giants Apple and Google, especially in the U.S.
"Nokia's decision to unveil its second generation Lumia devices in the US is extremely significant for the Finnish handset manufacturer, which has always struggled to make an impact in the country, even before the advent of Apple's iPhone," he wrote. "But this is also a notable launch for Microsoft, which needs to pull out all the stops to guarantee greater awareness and demand for Windows Phone 8 devices, among consumers, business users and carriers."