One week after Microsoft announced the debut of Windows Phone in China, the software giant's close partner Nokia launched its own lineup of handsets based on that platform. The Nokia Lumia 800C will be offered for sale in China starting in April, followed by the Lumia 610 in June.

"We're excited to introduce our first Lumia smartphone, the Nokia 800C, to this important market with our exclusive launch partner, China Telecom," Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said. "Working closely together, we've created a compelling, locally relevant experience on the Nokia 800C especially tailored for people in China."

The Lumia 800C is a Chinese-language version of the Lumia 800 model that Nokia first shipped in late 2011. It's a 3G device powered by Windows Phone 7.5 and runs on a CDMA network type utilized by China Telecom. It features Nokia's custom Windows Phone apps, including Nokia Drive, Maps, and Music, and a number of exclusive apps and services aimed at the China market.

And it's a big market. Smartphone makers are expected to sell more handsets there this year than in the United States. China Telecom is huge in its own right, with a network larger than Verizon Wireless here in the states. It sold more than 30 million smartphones in the last quarter alone.

Nokia also plans to bring its Lumia 710 and 900 models to the China market in 2012, and it will support the country's other major carriers, including China Mobile and China Unicom. It can't happen fast enough, given that Nokia ceded its number-one spot in the China market to Samsung. 

To help foster Windows Phone app development in this crucial country, Microsoft and Nokia also announced a new "Be Top" program that will support developers there.