Gartner Predicts Windows Phone To Hit 10 Percent Market Share by 2018
According to market researcher Gartner, Microsoft's Windows Phone platform is on course for a major growth spurt over the next four years.
Windows Phone's market share will reach 10 percent by 2018, the research firm said on Monday. Gartner gave no context for this projection. However, Microsoft has made some moves in the past months to expand Windows Phone's user base.
Since February, the company has added 11 Windows Phone original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to its original stable of four, many of them based in developing markets where the potential for growth is still high. These new OEMs could give Windows Phone a foothold in the low-end smartphone arena, an area that Android has dominated.
Microsoft also launched the second generation of the Nokia X in June. While the Nokia X2 runs an open source version of Android, it comes with some Windows services preinstalled, including OneDrive and Skype. Because of this, Microsoft has described the Nokia X2 as "a gateway to Microsoft services." The Nokia X2 also looks similar to Microsoft's flagship Lumia line, which runs Windows Phone. The company is betting that the likeness will encourage users to eventually switch to the Lumia.
Windows Phone's growth rate is expected to outpace that of both Android and iOS in the coming years, though it still has a lot of ground to cover to reach Gartner's forecast. Another research firm, IDC, is less bullish about Windows Phone's prospects for 2018, projecting a market share of just 6.4 percent for that year.
Nearer-term, both Gartner and IDC appear to have badly overshot their previous expectations for Windows Phone in 2015. Both firms projected three years ago that Windows Phone would supplant iOS as the No. 2 platform behind Android and have a market share of about 20 percent by next year. However, Windows Phone is expected to have a market share of just 4 percent by the end of 2014. Recent data from IDC indicates it captured less than 3 percent of the market in the first quarter of the year, making it a distant third behind first-place Android (81 percent) and second-place iOS (15 percent).
'Revival' for PCs, 'Slowdown' for Tablets
Gartner also released its forecast for the overall device market on Monday, and the outlook for PCs is slightly sunnier.
The PC market experienced the "worst contraction on record" last year, declining by nearly 10 percent, according to IDC's and Gartner's estimates. However, Gartner says the market will undergo a "relative revival" in 2014, with shipments expected to fall by just 2.9 percent over the year. PC shipments are also projected to return to growth in 2015, increasing by 2.7 percent.
Gartner attributes the improvement to "the general business replacement cycle" and specifically to PC users finally migrating from Windows XP, which reached its extended support deadline in April. The loss of extended support means users still on Windows XP are no longer eligible to receive security patches from Microsoft. Despite that, Windows XP is still the second most-used desktop OS by some measures. However, Gartner expects PC replacement purchases to hit 60 million in 2014 out of a total 308 million shipments.
Tablet shipments, meanwhile, are expected to go through a "relative slowdown" -- emphasis on "relative." Shipments are still projected to grow by 23.9 percent year-over-year in 2014 (to reach 256 million units), and by 25.2 percent in 2015.
However, Gartner noted that "lower demand from users for tablets with smaller screens, some in favor of larger screens, in mature markets, and the shift towards phablets in South-East Asia are slowing global tablet penetration."
Mobile phone shipments are set to grow by just 3.1 percent in 2014, but -- at 1.9 billion units -- they will make up more than three-quarters of all device shipments in the year. Smartphones currently comprise 66 percent of all mobile phone shipments, but Gartner expects that number to jump to 88 percent by 2018.