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CES 2013: Sprint Finally Commits To Windows Phone 8

Sprint has agreed to offer smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, but not until this summer.
CES 2013: 9 Cool Gadgets
CES 2013: 9 Cool Gadgets
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Sprint announced late Monday that it will offer Windows Phone 8 devices from both HTC and Samsung later this year. This is a significant change in stance for Sprint, which hasn't offered a new Windows Phone device since the 2010-era HTC EVO Pro.

All Sprint's competitors launched Windows Phone 8 devices earlier this year. AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless sell a range of Windows Phones from the likes of HTC and Nokia. Verizon will soon sell a Samsung-made Windows Phone, too. Was Sprint beginning to feel left out?

Not likely.

Sprint has, on many occasions, expressed skepticism about Windows Phone's chances in the market. In August, when asked, "What do you think about Windows Phone?" Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said, "I don't know. You tell me."

[ Get the latest smartphone news from CES. See CES 2013: Smaller Smartphone Players Steal Spotlight. ]

Sprint VP David Owen said the platform, and the EVO Pro in particular, did not perform well for the Now Network. It had a higher rate of returns than many of Sprint's other smartphones. That's why Sprint pulled back and decided to wait for Windows Phone to age a bit. It did not offer Windows Phone 7.5 devices when they launched in October 2011, and did not lead out of the gate with Windows Phone 8 this past fall, as its competitors did.

The Windows Phone 8 offerings from HTC and Nokia, including the 8X, 8S, Lumia 920 and Lumia 820, are solid devices that perform well. Sprint did not say what devices it would offer other than the hardware will be made by HTC and Samsung. It isn't a big stretch to assume that Sprint will sell the HTC 8X and Samsung ATIV Odyssey, which are also sold by Verizon Wireless. (Verizon's network uses the same CDMA technology, so HTC and Samsung don't have to do too much to alter their phones to make them compatible with Sprint's network.)

Sprint will be late to the party by the time its WP8 handsets arrive, and even now its announcement feels halfhearted and unenthusiastic.

Microsoft has surely been pitching Sprint hard on its new platform, especially as a benefit for Sprint's enterprise customers. Perhaps now that Sprint sees the Windows 8 / RT / Phone 8 picture more clearly, it has more faith in Microsoft's platform. Or maybe Sprint is feeling more confident now that it has $20 billion in cash headed in its direction, thanks to Softbank's investment. Whatever the reason for Sprint's change of heart, it's a good one that will increase choice for consumers.

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