Windows Phone 7 Won't Overtake Smartphone Rivals: IDC

A leading analyst firm's latest projections for the smartphone market has both good and bad news for Microsoft and its soon-to-launch Windows Phone 7.

The good news, according to the latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker from analysis firm IDC, is that Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Mobile phones and their replacements running Windows Phone 7 will grow from 6.8 percent market share in 2010 to 9.8 percent in 2014. That's a 43.3 percent gain.

The bad news, however, is that IDC predicts that in 2014, Microsoft, which is currently in fifth place in the smartphone sweepstakes, will still be in fifth place. Its four leading competitors, similarly, are likely to retain their double-digit market shares now and into the near future.

Still, the market for smartphones will continue to grow, which is good news for all of the top vendors, Microsoft included.

"The worldwide market for converged mobile devices (also commonly referred to as smartphones) is expected to grow 55.4 percent this year compared to 2009 amid greater-than-expected demand for the do-it-all devices," IDC said in a statement Tuesday.

IDC said it expects sales of smartphones this year to hit 269.6 million, up from 173.5 million last year. At least in the short term, that's driven by expectations that newly introduced models such as the BlackBerry Torch, HTC EVO 4G and Apple iPhone 4 will help propel the uptick in sales.

That growth rate will slow over time, however.

"Despite uncertainty about the economy, the smartphone market is expected to increase 24.5 percent in 2011. However, smartphone growth will slow progressively over the course of IDC's five-year forecast period. In 2014, for example, the market is expected to rise by just 13.6 percent," IDC said.

In terms of this year, IDC sees the leaders as Symbian with 40.1 percent of the market, Research In Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry OS with 17.9 percent, Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android at 16.3 percent, and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS with 14.7 percent.

Within four years, though, the numbers are projected to change substantially. In 2014, IDC still pegs Symbian as the first-place vendor, but with only 32.9 percent share, an 18 percent drop, while BlackBerry holds almost flat with 17.3 percent.

However, BlackBerry will have slipped to third place behind Android -- the biggest beneficiary of the bunch. In 2014, IDC sees the Google-backed, Linux-based mobile OS jumping some 51.2 percent to a share of 24.6 percent. The biggest loser, however, is likely to be Apple's iOS, which IDC analysts see sliding from 14.7 percent share this year to 10.9 percent in 2014, slightly more than one percentage point ahead of Windows Phones. That's a decline of 25.8 percent.

Meanwhile, Microsoft last week released its new smartphone operating system -- Windows Phone 7 -- to its handset manufacturing partners, setting the stage for new phones sporting to ship with the OS.

However, the software giant has not yet said when Windows Phone 7 handsets will be available to the general public, although it has promised that the devices will go on sale in the U.S. in time for the holiday shopping season.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.


Android, Microsoft, mobile, smartphones, Windows Phone 7