Windows Phone Could Be Number Two By 2015 -- If Nokia Doesn't Implode First

elop ballmer nokiaWill these guys still be running their companies in 2015?

Photo: Nokia

Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform will move from near-last place today to number two, just behind Google’s Android, by 2015, predicts research firm IDC.That sounds startling given Microsoft’s well-publicised failures in the mobile market so far — the company can’t even push a minor software update out on schedule, and one of its senior mobile execs was forced to apologise this weekend after appearing too carefree about the blown updates last week.

But IDC has actually made a very safe prediction that assumes mobile business trends will continue in a stable, linear fashion for four years.

Here’s why: IDC is assuming that Windows Phone will have the exact same market share in 2015 — 20.9% — as Symbian does in 2011. In other words, today’s Symbian users will become tomorrow’s Windows Phone users, just like Nokia hopes.

Or more likely, some Nokia users will remain loyal to the hardware and make the switch, while Microsoft’s other Windows Phone partners like LG and Samsung will also pick off some customers from other platforms.

Take a look at the chart here:

IDC predictions mobile share 2011 and 2015

Photo: IDC

But hang on a second — just back in September, IDC predicted that Symbian would have about 40% smartphone market share at the end of 2010. Now, it’s saying that Symbian will have only 20.9% share at the end of 2011.

So that’s a drop of nearly 20 percentage points in less than a year.

(IDC never published end of year stats by platform, but in February it said that Nokia had 33% share of smartphone hardware, which amounts to about the same thing as Symbian market share. That’s still a lot higher than 20.9%.)

So what happens if Nokia continues to lose market share at that pace in spite of the big strategic switch to Windows Phone?

That’s a real possibility. This morning, Bloomberg reported that the company has grown fat and lazy, with engineers taking month-long vacations in the summer. CEO Stephen Elop also faces internal clashes over Microsoft’s closed-source philosophy and layoffs. Microsoft might also fail to deliver the information that Nokia needs to make competitive Windows Phones in a timely fashion.

Four years is an eternity in the tech world. Making predictions based on current business trends is like predicting the weather next month based on how it looks outside right now.

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