The market researchers at IDC today revealed a startling prediction for the future of the smartphone industry: Although Android will continue to dominate the market over the next four years, as expected, Microsoft's Windows Phone—and not Apple's iPhone—will be the number-two player by 2015. Read that sentence again, folks. That's right, Microsoft's ineptly handled new smartphone platform is expected to somehow race ahead to overtake the iPhone.
What, you ask, could cause such a sudden and unexpected change? According to IDC, the addition of Nokia to the Windows Phone stable of partners is going to put the platform over the top.
"Up until the launch of Windows Phone 7 last year, Microsoft has steadily lost market share while other operating systems have brought forth new and appealing experiences," IDC Senior Research Analyst Ramon Llamas said. "The new alliance brings together Nokia's hardware capabilities and Windows Phone's differentiated platform ... By 2015, IDC expects Windows Phone to be the number-two operating system worldwide behind Android."
This year, the smartphone market will be distributed largely among four key players, according to IDC: Android (with almost 40 percent market share), followed by Nokia Symbian (21 percent), iOS (iPhone, 15.7 percent), and Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry (15 percent). But Symbian is falling off a cliff as Nokia essentially abandons that platform, and IDC expects Symbian market share to fall a whopping 65 percent—to just .2 percent of the market—by 2015. (Windows Phone should account for about 5.5 percent of the market in 2011, IDC says.)
The biggest winner in the next four years will be Windows Phone, according to IDC: Thanks to an influx of Nokia resources, Windows Phone is expected to jump to about 21 percent of the market in 2015, a gigantic 67 percent increase. This is below the dominant Android, with 45.4 percent of the market, but well ahead of iPhone (15.3 percent) and BlackBerry (13.7 percent).
Given Microsoft's almost complete bungling of Windows Phone thus far—the mismanagement includes an utter lack of transparency and clarity and a glacial update schedule that's being hobbled by one-sided deals with its wireless carrier and hardware partners—this turn of events is so fantastical that it can be taken as an April Fool's joke. But it's only March 29, so IDC must be serious.
Windows Phone as the number-two smartphone platform? It just seems too good to be true. Cross your fingers, Windows Phone fans. This is uncharted territory.