Nokia's first tablet, the Lumia 2520 Nokia's first tablet, the Lumia 2520

The United States Department of Justice has approved the sale of Finnish smartphone maker to U.S. software giant Microsoft. Microsoft announced its intent to purchase Nokia for $7.2 billion on September 3 this year with the expectation that the deal would clear regulatory hurdles in the first quarter of 2014.

The approval from governing bodies and shareholders that must sign off on the deal appears to be a bit ahead of schedule. The U.S. DOJ made its decision on Nov. 29 (Black Friday last week in the U.S.) and was announced today according to the Federal Trade Commission. Nokia shareholders already approved the deal in a vote last month. Officials in India have also approved the deal. The final step for the merger to be finalized is for the European Commission (a governing body within the European Union) to give final approval which is expected later this week.

Microsoft is buying Nokia's devices and services division that include nearly 33,000 employees worldwide. Microsoft will be able to use the Nokia name for several years on the smartphones the merger will produce. Nokia will remain a separate company in Finland and produce the HERE Maps product (which it will license to Microsoft) as well as retain its entire patent portfolio. 

Photo: Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet running Windows 8.1 RT