Research firm IDC offers up its look at smartphone market share through 2016 and suggests several surprising trends: Android may peak this year while Windows Phone will jump past iOS in 2016. The market for BlackBerry(s rimm) phones won’t disappear either says IDC, as emerging markets will look to RIM for messaging phones. I don’t own a crystal ball, but I have to wonder about some of IDC’s reason for optimism here, particularly for Windows Phone(s msft).
Too far of a look
One of the problems here is the range of the forecast. To predict anything more than a year out in the smartphone market is like throwing darts: You might hit the bullseye, but more than likely you’ll simply hit the board.
The market for both mobile hardware and software is simply changing too quickly to predict beyond 12 to 15 months. My own end of year prediction in 2011 is already in jeopardy: I said Windows Phone would surpass BlackBerry sales in 2012 with just a single digit share. We’re nearly halfway through the year and my prognostication doesn’t look good, even as the Windows Marketplace has built momentum with 100,000 apps.
Why will Windows Phone beat out iOS according to IDC?
IDC suggests that Microsoft will see success because of Nokia(s nok):
“Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will be aided by Nokia’s strength in key emerging markets. IDC expects it to be the number 2 OS with more than 19% share in 2016, assuming Nokia’s foothold in emerging markets is maintained.”
The entire assumption is based on Nokia’s brand in these emerging markets. But that contradicts IDC’s claim that these areas want BlackBerry devices. And it totally overlooks a real, visible trend: The market is getting flooded with cheap Android phones in some of these emerging markets today. Add in the fact that nobody outside of Apple(s aapl) knows the iOS strategy over the next four years — which is already starting to shift and boost the addressable market with pre-paid iPhones in the U.S. — and IDC’s logic falls apart.
If Windows Phone does jump, here’s why
Given that I like choice and using the right tool for the task, I want IDC’s vision of a more competitive smartphone market to be right. But its forecast hasn’t explained to me how it will be right. Windows Phone could very well be a success, but not for the reasons IDC named. The platform has impressed me in usage, but here some actual reasons it could yet take off:
- The use of a consistent interface, the Metro UI, on both Windows Phone and Windows 8 computers.
- Expansion of the Xbox Live ecosystem across all Windows devices.
- Taking advantage of its Skype purchase with a seamless voice and video service between devices with deep integration; possibly using Skype as a way for users to ditch costly, low-value voice plans.
Again, I don’t have a crystal ball that looks into 2016, so my guess is as good as IDC’s. Then again, about a year ago, IDC forecasted the same results it did today, with one exception: It said Windows Phone would surpass iOS by 2015. What a difference a year makes!