Microsoft struggled for years under the scrutiny of pundits and being bullied by post-PC era giants like Apple and Google, who shoved the design-challenged company into the proverbial locker like the nerd it was thought to be.
While ruling the PC and desktop computing world, they faded from the minds of consumers as programs, styluses and monitors were replaced by apps, smartphones and tablets.
This post-PC era ushered in a time when media consumption became more important than productivity, and concepts like "operating system" and "user interface" became more important than the specs of the devices that ran them. Even then, Microsoft didn't fare so well. Their ill-fated Zune mp3 player was laughed right off the market after coming late to the party.
But in 2011, Microsoft made itself over with the launch of its Windows Phone OS and re-emerged more hipster than tech dweeb, determined to shed its visually-impaired past and become trendy once again.
And unlike with the Zune, they may have gotten it right this time. Those same critics who mocked Microsoft's lack of design acumen have gone head over heels for their Windows Phone OS, nearly all of them saying it's superior to Android and some even going so far as to say it's better than iOS.
Despite the critical acclaim, sales of Windows Phones have been weak, and that's putting it lightly. But this year, Microsoft is looking to change that.
A Blue Chip Device
Many have argued that the biggest factor holding Microsoft back has been the lack of of a flagship phone. Android had the Motorola Droid and Apple had the iPhone. Both of those devices had the build quality and the marketing muscle to gain a foothold in the market (or in Apple's case, take over the market).
With the Lumia 800 and the newly-announced Lumia 900, the Windows Phone OS finally has a quality device that can attract new users to the platform. The Windows 7.5 OS (Mango)-powered Lumia 900 features a 4.3-inch AMOLED ClearBlack display and the distinctive, soft-touch black or cyan polycarbonate shell that the Lumia 800 made popular. It will be exclusive to AT&T, with support for 4G LTE connectivity.
Under the hood, it's got a 1.4GHz single core processor and 512MB of RAM. Those specs themselves aren't going to blow anyone away, but Nokia has been smart about the marketing here. Instead of trying to engage a spec war with the Android devices, they've been showing off the speed of the phone in real-world scenarios. It's an effective way of appealing to a broader consumer base, which is who Microsoft and Nokia desperately need to bring on board.
No OS can succeed without the right hardware, and thanks to Nokia, Microsoft is finally covered on that front.