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Huawei commits to 'Ascend' Windows Phone 8 handset

Microsoft's partnership with Huawei could give Windows Phone much-needed exposure in the no-contract market to battle Android and iOS.

Windows Phone 7.8 start screen
The Windows Phone 8 start screen will look like this. Josh Miller/CNET

When it comes to Windows Phone 8, "ascend" is exactly what Microsoft needs to raise up its smartphone share.

That's why Huawei's commitment to produce a Huawei Ascend handset running Microsoft's freshly announced Windows Phone 8 OS is so key. Although the Chinese company isn't well known in the top-tier U.S. carriers, the company has a strong partnership with no-contract carriers like MetroPCS and Cricket -- two carriers that have plenty of midrange Android smartphones but no Windows Phone.

As smartphone demand continues to grow among these smaller carriers, it's crucial for attractive Microsoft's offerings to counter the legion of Android smartphones, the requisite BlackBerry, and even the iPhone 4S, which is coming, along with the iPhone 4 to Cricket and Virgin Mobile.

Of course, Huawei could also surprise us by making a splash among the Big Four carriers with a higher-end Windows phone that includes an HD screen, a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus processor, and an expandable memory slot; however it's more likely that we'll see a device come to MetroPCS' 4G LTE network.

"2012 is building up to be a great year for Huawei," Huawei's Chief Marketing Officer Shao Yang, said in a statement. "Now, we are poised to end the year with a big bang -- with the introduction of our first smartphone running on the Windows Phone platform."

Huawei plans to release its first Ascend device with Windows Phone 8 in Europe, China, and the U.S., with other markets to follow.