Windows Phone is currently a distant fourth in what looks like a four-horse race for smartphone platforms. Android has nearly half of the global market. The iPhone's iOS platform is at around 18% share. All other platforms together, including BlackBerry, Bada, and the remnants of webOS, make up about a third of the market, and Windows Phone is barely a blip on the radar. Not for the first time, research indicates that by 2015 Microsoft will move from being a young startup in the smartphone world to second place. Nokia gets much of the credit for this.
In April 2011, IDC made a similar prediction. This time, the analysts are from iSuppli. It predicts that iOS will fall slightly from 18% today to 16% in 2015. This will allow Windows Phone to move up to be equal--or just ahead--of iOS. The "other" category, though, will dive from 33% today to less than 9%.
For platforms that are essentially dead, like Symbian and webOS, this is no big deal. The problem is, BlackBerry is in this category. That doesn't bode well for RIM at all. It has already been suggested that RIM give up on BlackBerry altogether and move to Android or Windows Phone, and iSuppli's forecast suggests sticking with its own platform makes little sense over the long term.
It makes you wonder whether Windows Phone could have made it on its own, without the Nokia partnership. Devices like the Lumia 710, 800, and 900 have all garnered good reviews, each with its own price point. Nokia also has great relationships with most international carriers and has committed to giving its relationships with North American carriers a boost.
While the announcement last year by Nokia to abandon its Symbian and Meego platforms and adopt Windows Phone was surprising to many, in hindsight the phone manufacturer had no choice. The former platform was dead already and the latter was a huge unknown with no ecosystem at all. Nokia could have gone with Android, of course, but its deal with Microsoft includes more than just a license. Marketing dollars, more input into how the OS evolves, and Nokia's name on Bing mobile mapping sites are just a few goodies that never would have come from adopting Android.
There has been a lot of hype about Windows Phone in recent weeks, and expect more out of Mobile World Congress in late February. There is little doubt its share will increase, but whether or not it rises to second place, well, I think it is too early to tell. Apple won't sit still for the next three years.