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IDC: Windows Phone To 'Solidify' No. 3 Smartphone OS Rank Through 2017

The gap between Microsoft's smartphone operating system and market leaders Google Android and Apple iOS will narrow slightly over the next four years, IDC said in a report this week.

The market research firm expects Windows Phone to close 2013 with a global market share of 3.9 percent, putting it in third place behind No. 1 Android (with its 75.3 percent market share) and No. 2 iOS (16.9 percent market share), and ahead of No. 4 BlackBerry OS (2.7 percent market share).

However, Windows Phone is projected to more than double its 2013 share over the next four years, giving it over 10 percent of the market in 2017. That would put it closer on the heels of iOS, which is expected to remain the No. 2 platform in 2017 with nearly 18 percent of the market.

Top Smartphone Operating Systems, Forecast Market Share and CAGR, 2013–2017 (Source: IDC).

Windows Phone's projected growth would also give it a greater lead over BlackBerry, which has consistently jockeyed with Windows Phone for the third-place position. In the first quarter of this year, Windows Phone narrowly passed BlackBerry to claim the No. 3 position for the first time, according to IDC data, although a separate Gartner research report put Windows Phone slightly behind. Windows Phone's Q2 market share put the platform on firmer ground as the third most-used smartphone platform worldwide.

IDC expects Windows Phone to "solidify" its third-place status over the four-year projection period, according to the report. There will be little change at the top of the rankings, however.

"We believe Android and iOS will remain the clear number one and two platforms, respectively, throughout our forecast," said Ramon Llamas, IDC Mobile Phone team research manager. He added, "Windows Phone has inched ahead of BlackBerry during the first half of 2013, and we believe that will extend into the future. However, overall shipments will continue to trail those of Android and iOS."

IDC's report this week gives a more tepid outlook for Windows Phone than some of its earlier forecasts. Previously, the research firm had projected Windows Phone would eventually overtake iOS as the No. 2 platform in the world, and grow its market share to roughly 20 percent in both 2015 and 2016.

IDC noted that it "remains to be seen" how Microsoft's $7 billion acquisition of Nokia's device manufacturing arm this week will affect Windows Phone's future performance. For its part, Microsoft expects the acquisition will boost Windows Phone's market share to 15 percent worldwide by 2018. Nokia shipped over 80 percent of all Windows Phone devices in Q2 2013.

IDC does expect that some of Microsoft's other hardware partners will focus less on Windows Phone in the wake of the acquisition, which could hinder the platform's growth.

"With the acquisition of Nokia's device and services unit, Microsoft will increasingly need to drive share gains by itself as OEM support for Windows Phone is expected to wane now that the company is set to become a full-fledged hardware maker," the report said.

It added that Microsoft will increasingly need to focus on growing Windows Phone's share in developing markets with lower-cost devices.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editor of Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and AWSInsider.net, and the editorial director of Converge360.

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