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BlackBerry Not Out Yet as Nokia Disappoints

The mobile platform race showed a bit of traction for BlackBerry this week.

Many may have given up the BlackBerry platform for dead. However, it recently showed surprising signs of life by securing a government contract. Meanwhile, Nokia device sales, which promote the Windows Phone platform, mysteriously stalled in the fourth quarter.

BlackBerry enjoyed a stock surge this week after the U.S. Department of Defense said that its new secure network would primarily support BlackBerry devices, with about 80,000 of the Ontario, Canada-based firm's devices eventually expected to be hooked up to that network. New BlackBerry CEO John Chen is recommitting to the original physical keyboards, as well as to historical markets such as business and government.

As big as an 80,000-seat contract is, that's 1 percent of the number of Windows Phones Nokia sold in the fourth quarter. The Finnish company reported its earnings today in a release (.PDF).

Unfortunately, the 8.2 million new Lumia phones Nokia sold in the fourth quarter of 2013 is a sequential drop from the 8.8 million Lumias sold in the third quarter. That's a big fumble for the critical, and usually bountiful, holiday season by the partner whose phone business Microsoft is acquiring.

All of the action is at the top between Google's Android platform, with Samsung as the major handset maker, and Apple with its integrated iOS/iPhone combination. Microsoft had seemed to be solidifying its position as the distant third platform in the smartphone world over the last few quarters, climbing its way past a badly stumbling BlackBerry.

For four consecutive quarters, Microsoft made big sequential gains. Staying on that trajectory would have put the Microsoft/Nokia combo well over 10 million devices for the fourth quarter of 2013. Microsoft and Nokia, which accounts for around 90 percent of the Windows Phone market worldwide, need to continue at that growth rate to become contenders in the global smartphone market.

One BlackBerry deal doesn't make a turnaround, and one bad quarter for Microsoft/Nokia isn't a disaster. Looked at another way, Nokia sold more than twice as many Lumias in Q4 2013 as it sold in Q4 2012. But suddenly the narrative shifts to whether Microsoft can hang onto the No. 3 spot rather than whether it can consolidate its position and start moving toward No. 2.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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