2015, a future where Android and Windows Phones lead the smartphone race

A new report by market researcher IDC predicts a surprising future for the smartphone wars: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform will grow to reach 20.9 percent of the worldwide smartphone operating system market and become the second most used operating system in the world.

Much less surprising is the prediction that Android will increase its market share from 39.5 percent in 2011 to 45.4 percent in 2015 while becoming the number one smartphone operating system.

"Android is poised to take over as the leading smartphone operating system in 2011 after racing into the number 2 position in 2010," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team in a report released on March 29.

An influx of low-priced (mostly Android-powered) smartphones is expected to be the catalyst many consumers needed to trade in their feature phones for new, more capable devices in the coming years.

The introduction of entry-level smartphones targeted at first-time buyers, combined with the ever-flowing stream of cutting-edge smartphones that drive the high end of the market, is expected to help the smartphone market to grow more than four times faster than the overall mobile phone market in 2011.

The worldwide smartphone market will expand by 49.2 percent in 2011, said IDC and smartphone shipments will be boosted from 303.4 million units in 2010 to 450 million in 2011.

One of the biggest disruptions to the future smartphone market is Microsoft's newly formed partnership with Nokia.

IDC believes the Microsoft-Nokia deal will shake up the market and propel the company's Windows Phone 7 platform from behind players like RIM's BlackBerry, Apple's iOS and Nokia's Symbian platform to the second most used operating system in the world in just four years.

"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 Llamas.

"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."

IDC's report shows Windows Phone 7 (WP7) growing from a tiny 5.5 percent in 2011 to 20.9 percent in 2015.

Nokia's Symbian platform will be slowly phased out as the company moves to integrate Microsoft's WP7 in its new handsets and will drop from second place and a 20.9 percent share of the market in 2011 to just 0.2 percent in 2015.

Apple's iOS market share will remain relatively stable, shifting from 15.7 percent to 15.3 percent and RIM's BlackBerry OS will drop slightly from 14.9 percent in 2011 to 13.7 percent in 2015.

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