"Microsoft Windows Phone overtook BlackBerry OS to become the third largest smartphone platform in the influential United States market during Q4 2012," reported Strategy Analytics. "It was the first time Microsoft has surpassed BlackBerry since 2006."
If true, it shouldn't be much of a surprise. Sales of BlackBerry smartphones in the U.S. are probably at their lowest point in a decade. Sales have been dropping steadily for some time. Further, BlackBerry widely publicized that it planned to launch BlackBerry 10 in late January. Fans of BlackBerry devices know enough to wait for the Z10 and Q10, announced last week, to arrive.
[ What can BlackBerry do to steal share from iOS and Android? See BlackBerry 10: 6 Ways To Win Back Consumers. ]
At the same time, Microsoft launched Windows Phone 8 during the fourth quarter with a half-dozen new models. Solid smartphones, such as the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X, went on sale in November at aggressive price points.
In fact, at least one source reported that WP8 sales have been incredibly strong. New statistics from AdDuplex show that in the 90 or so days since its release, there are now more active Windows Phone 8 users than Windows Phone 7 users. Considering that WP7 has been around for more than two years, that's a notable data point.
This may be a temporary victory for Microsoft, though. With BlackBerry 10 reaching U.S. store shelves in March, BlackBerry's turnaround saga begins in full. The first BB10 smartphone, the Z10, has seen decent initial demand in other markets, even outselling some WP8 devices. With the Z10 and Q10, expected to arrive in May or June, BlackBerry has a fighting chance against Microsoft.
It will be up to Microsoft's OEM partners to continue to bring new and exciting WP8 devices to market. Nokia is prepared to reveal new gear at Mobile World Congress later this month, and other smartphone makers, such as HTC and Samsung, are sure to introduce new WP8 hardware before the Q10 goes on sale toward the end of the second quarter.
Unfortunately, we'll need to wait until the close of the third or fourth quarter to see if BlackBerry or Microsoft will be standing in third place behind Apple and Google.