IDC Projects Windows Phone to Beat iPhone by 2015

Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform (currently Windows Phone 7) will grow markedly over the next four years to become the #2 smartphone platform by 2015, according to research firm IDC, behind Android at #1 and ahead of Apple’s iPhone, at #3. IDC believes that the alliance between Microsoft and Nokia, which has chosen Windows Phone 7 to replace its own Symbian OS on smartphones, will bear much fruit for both companies, reversing years of steady market share loss.

“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,” Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team, said in a statement. “The new alliance brings together Nokia’s hardware capabilities and Windows Phone’s differentiated platform. We expect the first devices to launch in 2012. By 2015, IDC expects Windows Phone to be number 2 operating system worldwide behind Android.”

Astute readers will note that IDC’s projection include a new #1 for 2011, Android OS. The company said that Android will take over the top spot in global smartphone sales this year, replacing the aforementioned Symbian OS, which has held that spot for many years.

As you can see in the table below, IDC sees Apple’s market share slipping from 15.7% in 2011 to 15.3% in 2015. Over that time, however, the smartphone market as a whole will grow, and IDC believes Apple’s shipments will grow 18.8% year-over-year, outgrowing BlackBerry, but growing slower than Android and Windows Phone.

Worldwide Smartphone Operating System Projections
2011 Market Share Projections     2015 Market Share Projections     Compound Annual Growth Rate

1.) Android


1.) Android



2.) Symbian


2.) Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile



3.) iOS


3.) iOS



4.) BlackBerry


4.) BlackBerry



5.) Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile


5.) Others



6.) Others


6.) Symbian



A casual look at those numbers suggests that IDC’s premise appears to be that Windows Phone 7 and its successors will be able to simply replace all the market share that Nokia currently owns (or will own by the end of 2011, as Nokia’s share is technically higher than IDC’s 2011 projections) with Symbian-powered devices.

A not-too-careful assessment of that premise, however, may leave you scratching your head. Windows Phone 7 has only lost market share for Microsoft since its release, and Nokia’s own share has been plummeting faster than a BSOD bringing down a PC. How the two companies will combine to make something more than just the sum of their respective parts is not something IDC is explaining.

Still, Nokia’s mind share and market presence throughout the rest of the world is not something any observer should dismiss. The company is dominant in both feature phones and smartphones in almost every market in which it competes outside the U.S. While that dominance has steadily declined, as mentioned above, it’s feasible that Nokia’s hardware and Microsoft’s software will somehow combine to get consumer interest in those markets where Nokia has historically performed so well.