Windows Struggles As iOS, Android Dominate Smartphone Space, IDC Says - InformationWeek
12:15 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

Windows Struggles As iOS, Android Dominate Smartphone Space, IDC Says

Microsoft will have a hard time selling Windows handsets while Apple and Google keep their shares at or near current levels, according to research firm IDC.

Pricey Smartphones: 8 You’ll Never Own
Pricey Smartphones: 8 You'll Never Own
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Android, iOS, and Windows will continue to be the top three smartphone platforms over the next few years, says IDC, but Microsoft's operating system will have just a fraction of the share enjoyed by its rivals. Platforms other than these three will all but disappear.

People are buying smartphones at a slower pace now than they did just a year ago. In fact, 2015 will mark the first year of single-digit growth across the market with shipments of about 1.43 billion units, according to IDC's predictions. That's a growth rate of just 9.8%. IDC attributes the slowdown to China's pancaking economy. Smartphone buyers in China snatched up handsets in record numbers of the last few years, but IDC says it believes China is already maturing into a replacement -- and not a first-adopter -- market.

"With the smartphone market finally slowing to single-digit growth, maintaining momentum will depend on several factors," Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker said in a statement. "The main driver has been and will continue to be the success of low-cost smartphones in emerging markets. This, in turn, will depend on capturing value-oriented first-time smartphone buyers as well as replacement buyers."

(Image: JasminSeidel/iStockphoto)

(Image: JasminSeidel/iStockphoto)

Android will close out 2015 with shipments of about 1.16 billion, giving it 81.2% of the market. IDC doesn't expect this share to fluctuate overmuch through 2019, when Android will see shipments topping 1.53 billion with 82.6% of the market.

Apple, too, will more or less tread water with iPhone shipments. Apple will push about 226 million iPhones out the door by the end of 2015, giving it 15.8% of the market. In four years' time, that number will swell only to 263 million, representing 14.1% of the market.

Windows 10 Mobile will not fare so well. "Despite all the effort Microsoft has put into the launch of Windows 10, [we do] not expect Microsoft's share of the smartphone OS market to grow much over the coming years," said IDC.

Microsoft will move about 31.4 million handsets by the end of 2015, the vast majority of which run Windows Phone 8.1, not its brand new Windows 10 Mobile platform. That's a drop compared to 2014, when it shipped nearly 35 million. Windows will close out the year with just 2.2% of the market. Microsoft may ship as many as 43 million Windows handsets by 2019, IDC predicts, but it will still hold only 2.3% of the market.

[Read iOS 9 Adoption Hits 70%, Blowing Away Android 6.]

One problem facing Microsoft is the lack of OEM support. It is now the only firm actively building new Windows handsets. At one time it had support from at least five others.

Adding these platforms together accounts for 99.2% of the market. That leaves just 0.8% for alternate platforms. Today, those alternates include BlackBerry's BBOS, Samsung's Tizen OS, Jolla's Sailfish OS, and Canonical's Ubuntu, among others. The ability of these firms to offer value to consumers is severely constrained by low-cost Android handsets.

In 2009, there were at least six viable smartphone platforms: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Palm OS, Symbian, and Windows. Now we're down to three -- one of which is struggling mightily. Looking ahead, it's hard to see anything but Android and iOS owning the market for years to come.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
12/21/2015 | 9:59:59 AM
Re: Chinese market
Soozyg,  Once you get your first phone, what ever you get after it is a replacement phone. When you get a replacement may hae to do with the economy, but the fact you already havea phone (and therefore havea bias for that brand if you liked it and against it if you didn't) makes it a replacement market. So I think all it was saying was that most people in China that are going to get smart phones already have them so now they will only get them when they want a new one, and since most people are loyal to the brand they first got unless it's been problematic, they will probably get the same kind of phone.
User Rank: Ninja
12/7/2015 | 12:23:54 PM
Chinese market
IDC says it believes China is already maturing into a replacement -- and not a first-adopter -- market.

Interesting. So buyers "mature" into replacement markets? Or is mature the wrong word? I would think the replacement market would be due to the difficult economy, no?
User Rank: Ninja
12/6/2015 | 12:14:13 PM
Re: AllJoyn
Personally, i think it was BYOD that killed off BlackBerry, and caused this market saturation with Android and iOS.  When employees were given the choice of a business device, they merged the two and got either iOS or Android.  For Microsoft, the real sweet spot for them is business users, since they can natively provide more integration with Microsoft business tools like CRM and Office, and hardware like Surface. The problem is that BYOD is going to make it very hard to win employees over when it comes to having them adopt a Windows Phone, and getting companies to cover the costs of a new device will also be a tough sell.  The high costs of a device alone means folks are hanging onto their current device longer, and only replacing when it ceases to work or becomes too outdated.

There's also the question about applications.  The majority of application creation is skewed towards Android and iOS merely based on market demographics.  Getting them to code for a third platform will be not only costly, but less than desireable unless there are conversion tools available.

For me, the very cool redeeming factor of the Windows Phone is that you could do some great things with the XBox in terms of integration or second screen experiences.  This could sway the XBox market potentially, but only if they deem the rest of the applications and phone specifications to be compelling enough...which sadly since the design is limited to one manufacturer, it will be tricky.

Microsoft has a strong legacy, it's just a matter of if the market pulls back into a multi-platform market, or simply continues with two main platforms.
Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 11:54:54 PM
Re: AllJoyn
I also depends on how the competitor will react and how fast the market can accept this new innovation. I remember long time ago Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is a hot topic in telecom industry. But soon it's replaced by more powerful realtime communication apps on Smartphones.
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 1:50:51 PM
Microsoft is including Alljoyn with Windows 10. Alljoyn is an internet of things platform that can be used to create a smart home. It has a lot of support from appliance makers, and makes it possible to control a home from any Windows10 mobile device. It could very well make a difference for Microsoft.
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