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IDC: Windows Phone To Become No. 2 Mobile OS by 2016

Microsoft's consumer mobile operating systems will emerge from their current slump in the market to achieve second place in four years, according to recently published analysis by IDC.

The research and consulting firm estimated that Microsoft's smartphone operating systems, Windows Phone and the aging Windows Mobile, will eventually pass Apple's iOS to become the most-used smartphone OSes in the world. Google's Android will continue to be the top smartphone OS worldwide, although its market share will fall from 61.0 percent in 2012 to an estimated 52.9 percent in 2016. Android shipments will increase by 9.5 percent annually until 2016, IDC reported on Wednesday.

The current No. 2 OS in the world, iOS, is also expected to lose ground over the next four years. Although IDC forecasts 10.9 percent annual growth in iOS' worldwide shipments during that period, its share will drop from the current 20.5 percent to 19.0 percent in 2016.

By comparison, IDC projects more explosive growth for Windows Phone and Windows Mobile. The two OSes' combined worldwide shipments (IDC doesn't break them out separately) will balloon by 46.2 percent annually, increasing their market share from 5.2 percent in 2012 to 19.2 percent in 2016. That will be just enough to propel Microsoft's OSes past iOS into second place.

IDC's prediction that Microsoft will eventually overcome its slow start to leapfrog Apple echoes its forecast last year as well as this report from Gartner.

In this recent report, IDC credited the Microsoft OSes' growth spurt to Microsoft's partnership with Nokia -- specifically, Nokia's "strength in key emerging markets." Additionally, Microsoft has lowered Windows Phone's hardware requirements and expanded its language options in an effort to attract low-end smartphone buyers in developing markets.

For iOS, much of its growth will come from continuing strong adoption of the iPhone 4S in developed markets. However, "[g]rowth will moderate over the five-year forecast given the large installed base Apple has accumulated, which means more of its addressable market will be on replacement cycles," IDC said.

Overall, IDC projects a slowdown in global mobile phone shipments in 2012. Uncertain economic conditions will make users of non-smartphones -- what IDC calls "feature" phones -- reluctant to replace their aging devices. Worldwide mobile phone shipments are expected to grow by only 4.0 percent this year, the smallest year-over-year growth since 2009.

   
Smartphone OS 2012 Market Share (%) 2016 Market Share (%) 2012-2016 CAGR (%)
Android 61.0 52.9 9.5
Windows Phone/Windows Mobile 5.2 19.2 46.2
iOS 20.5 19.0 10.9
BlackBerry OS 6.0 5.9 12.1
Others 7.2 3.0 -5.4
Total 100.0 100.0 12.7
Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the site editor of RCPmag.com.

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