Microsoft must be hoping that IDC's latest projections for the smartphone market turn out to be correct. The US-based research company reckons that by 2015, Windows Mobile will be the second most popular smartphone operating system, after Android., This will put it ahead of both Apple's iOS and RIM's BlackBerry.
Android certainly looks likely to hold on to its leading position, unless there are some unexpected virus-related or legal problems. However, IDC is only predicting that its market share will increase from 39.5% this year to 45.4% in 2015. For an OS that has gone from 0% to 40% like a rocket, this looks like an unduly modest projection to me.
More controversially, IDC predicts that Microsoft's Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will increase its market share from 5.5% this year to 20.9% in 2015. It's not all that unreasonable. IDC reckons that Nokia has a 20.9% share of the smartphone market this year, so it's simply predicting that Nokia will be able to shift the bulk of its smartphone sales to Windows Phone. The corollary is that Nokia+Windows Phone will actually be down by 5.5 percentage points, but again, this looks a surprisingly modest drop to me.
Finally, IDC is projecting that both RIM and Apple will lose smartphone market share. The numbers show iOS slipping from 15.7% this year to 15.3% in 2015, while RIM's BlackBerry drops from 14.9% to 13.7%. This appears to imply two things. First, that Apple will not launch cheaper versions of the iPhone to compete against Android phones that already cost a lot less. (Apple did bring out cheap and crappy iPods, so I'm not betting against it.) Second, that RIM will make a smooth transition to the more capable QNX operating system. Both of those points are debatable.
Still, most of the companies involved in the smartphone market should enjoy some success. IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker is predicting that "smartphone vendors will ship more than 450 million smartphones in 2011 compared to the 303.4 million units shipped in 2010. Moreover, the smartphone market will grow more than four times faster than the overall mobile phone market."
If the market grows at 20% a year, smartphone sales will hit 900m in 2015 and go over the billion mark in 2016. (IDC is projecting a CAGR of 19.6%.) This means total smartphone sales of 3.35 billion for 2011-15 inclusive, at a cost of around $1 trillion. And most of them will probably be landfill by 2016….