Nokia now No. 1 vendor of Windows Phone 7. Will its gamble pay off?

Just a year after Nokia and Microsoft announced their partnership, Nokia is shipping more Windows Phone 7 handsets than any other manufacturer. 

Nokia is the top Windows Phone 7 vendor in the world, according to a new report. Here, a line of Nokia phones.

Late last year, Nokia took the wraps off the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800, the first two Nokia handsets to run the Windows Phone 7 operating system – and the first fruits of the much ballyhooed relationship between Nokia and Microsoft.

Today comes news that just a couple months later, Nokia is already the largest Windows Phone 7 vendor in the world, topping former title-holder HTC. 

According to Strategy Analytics, 2.7 million Windows Phone handsets were shipped globally in the fourth quarter of last year, a 36 percent from the quarter before. Of those 2.7 million handsets, 900,000 were sold by Nokia, giving the Finland-based company a 33 percent share of the overall Windows Phone market.

Translation: More Windows Phone devices are shipping, and more of them are being shipped by Nokia. 

"An expanded portfolio of Windows Phone 7 models, such as the Lumia 800, an increased retail presence and highly visible marketing campaigns across several European and Asian countries drove Nokia's growth," Strategy Analytics exec Neil Mawston said in a press release this week (hat tip to CNET for the quote). 

About a year ago, Microsoft and Nokia announced their plan to team-up on a range of new smartphones – Microsoft would develop the software, and Nokia would manufacture the handsets. Over at TechCrunch, Matt Burns sees the relationship as shaping up nicely. 

"[T]his as much about Microsoft as it is Nokia. The partnership is nearly perfect. Microsoft knows software and Nokia knows hardware. Take the Zune: fantastic software hampered by just average hardware that had limited market distribution," Burns writes today. "Likewise, the Nokia N8 is one of the finest phones I’ve ever felt but the Symbian OS made it unsellable."

Separate, Burns adds, "these two companies were being pushed out of the mobile race. But together, they’re a major force."

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