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IDC predicts Windows Phone will top Apple's iOS in market share by 2015

A new forecast of the global smartphone platform market from research firm IDC has predicted that Microsoft's Windows Phone platform will see a resurgence in the next four years, overtaking Apple's iOS platform which powers the iPhone.

IDC on Tuesday revealed its prediction that the worldwide smartphone market will grow 49.2 percent in 2011, with more than 450 million smartphones shipped. That would be a major increase from the 303.4 million units shipped in 2010.

IDC sees Apple's iOS taking 15.7 percent of global smartphone operating system market shipments in 2011. That would place Apple's platform which powers the iPhone in third place, behind market leader Android, with 39.5 percent, and Symbian, with 20.9 percent.

But despite the tremendous growth of the iPhone since it was introduced in 2007, IDC sees Apple's platform share actually dipping in global share by 2015 to 15.3 percent. Perhaps most surprising is the firm's prediction that Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile will grow to 20.9 percent of the market by 2015.

Growth of the multi-device Windows Phone platform is expected to be driven by Nokia's decision to adopt Microsoft's platform on its future mobile devices. Microsoft is said to be paying billions of dollars to Nokia in their arrangement.

"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," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team. "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."

Accordingly, IDC sees the share of Nokia's once-dominant Symbian platform dropping significantly by 2015. In the next four years, IDC sees Symbian representing just 0.2 percent of shipments.

IDC sees the smartphone market growing more than four times faster than the overall mobile phone market in the coming years. However, in the firm's projections, smartphones will not see market growth in 2011 as strong as it was in 2010.

"Android is poised to take over as the leading smartphone operating system in 2011 after racing into the number 2 position in 2010," Llamas said. "For the vendors who made Android the cornerstone of their smartphone strategies, 2010 was the coming-out party. This year will see a coronation party as these same vendors broaden and deepen their portfolios to reach more customers, particularly first-time smartphone users."

Earlier this year, IDC tracking found Apple to be the No. 2 global vendor of smartphones in terms of hardware sales. It found that Apple represented 16.1 percent of the smartphone market, trailing behind only Nokia, which represented an estimated 28 percent of hardware shipments in the fourth quarter of 2010.