NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- My first prediction for 2012 is that Microsoft ( MSFT) will succeed in its smartphone efforts and stake out a credible third position behind Google's ( GOOG) Android and Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone.By the end of 2012, the number of Windows Phone users may still lag behind what could be very close to 100 million BlackBerry users at that time, but the Windows Phone growth rate will almost inevitably be a lot higher, suggesting it may pass BlackBerry as early as 2013.
- Diversity in hardware. Currently, the main Windows Phone hardware makers are Nokia (NOK), Samsung and HTC. LG and Dell (DELL) are the two smaller players right now. This diversity is in stark contrast to the iPhone's single size and form.
Although the iPhone is available in one screen size -- 3.5 inches -- and lacks a keyboard option, the Windows phones range from 3.7 inches to 4.7, and there is one good keyboard option in the form of the outstanding Dell Venue Pro, which is available SIM-unlocked directly from Dell for only $300.
- A new user interface. The iPhone interface is great, but many longtime users admit it's getting a little bit stale. In contrast, Windows Phone offers a refreshing take on how to absorb information quickly.
- The keyboard.
- The battery life.
- The email experience.
- Nokia CEO Steven Elop wrote the now-famous "burning platform" memo, which made it obvious he was going to tie Nokia's future to his former employer. With Nokia staking its future on Windows Phone, this was the biggest piece of the puzzle that could tip the market in favor of creating a sustained No. 3 position for Windows Phone over the long term.
- Google's August 2011 proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobile, which has not yet closed. This must be scaring the daylights out of many Anrdoid licensees. Previously they might have devoted 95% of their efforts to bringing Android smartphones to market, and only 5% to Windows Phone. I now envision that many may switch that mix to 75% Android/25% Windows Phone.