Soon we'll know if Nokia can 'Ace' U.S. smartphone market with Windows phone

Finnish handset maker reportedly set to unveil Nokia Ace Windows phone for AT&T

Next Monday, if this Bloomberg article is correct, Nokia will unveil at the Consumer Electronics Show the first Windows smartphone designed to help it gain U.S. market share lost to Apple's iPhone and devices powered by Google's Android mobile OS.

It won't be the first Nokia Windows phone on the U.S. market. That honor belongs to the low-end Lumia 710, which will be sold by T-Mobile USA beginning next Wednesday and will cost $49.99 with a 24-month contract.

But the Nokia Ace, according to sources, will be sold by AT&T, one of the two largest U.S. wireless carriers (along with Verizon). And it won't be a cheapie like the Lumia 710: It will cost $249 with a two-year contract, will run the latest version of Microsoft's mobile OS, and will be the first Windows phone to use LTE, or Long Term Evolution, the emerging standard for high-speed wireless communications.

Clearly this is a phone designed to challenge the iPhone and high-end Androids, a phone designed to say "Nokia and Microsoft are back!" The sources cited by Bloomberg weren't specific about a timetable, other than saying Nokia will unveil its plans for the Ace "in coming months."

Nokia announced its stunning partnership with Microsoft last February, almost a year ago. Since then its loss of market share has accelerated as Nokia essentially went dark on the market (with the exception of some token releases) and retooled. Late last year it released some Lumia Windows phones in a number of European and Asian countries.

So now the game moves to the U.S. smartphone market, where Nokia has a 1.5% share and Microsoft 5.2%. Once the products are on the shelves and available for comparison to the Droids and iPhones, there won't be any room for Ballmeresque boasting -- or excuses. Nokia essentially is gambling everything on the Windows phones.

Last year Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told employees that the company was standing on a burning platform in the North Sea, and that the only sensible option in such a situation is to leap into the unknown.

Soon we'll find out where Nokia landed.

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