IDC says of Windows Phone:
Windows Phone will gain share despite a slow start. 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.
Such predictions are notorious unreliable. For example, the IDC forecast in 2010 predicted market share figures for 2014 of Symbian at 32.9%, Android at 24.7%, BlackBerry OS at 17.3%, iOS at 10.9% and Windows Mobile at 9.8%. The IDC forecast in 2011 predicted figures for 2015 of Android at 43.8%, Windows Phone at 20.3%, iOS at 16.9%, Blackberry OS at 13.4% and Symbian at 0.1%.
The reality is that making forwarding looking predictions in an industry as fast moving as mobile is very difficult. Looking at IDC's current forecast it is reasonable to argue that the figures for BlackBerry OS look generous and that there's no provision for major platform shifts (e.g. Samsung moving some of its Android shipments to its own Linux platform).
However, what the forecast does underline, regardless of how accurate it turns out to be, is that the current opinion of IDC's mobile analysts is that Windows Phone will be the fastest growing smartphone platform over the next few years. That's an attitude which suggests more confidence in the platform than a quick look at current media coverage, share price and market share figures might lead a casual observer to expect.
In assessing any prediction it's also important to remember that global market share figures also hide large regional differences, something that is likely to increase in the next few years. IDC specifically identifies emerging markets as a key strength for Nokia and Windows Phone and it's worth remembering that it is these markets that are set to grow fastest, in volume terms, over the next four years. The next round of the smartphone platform wars will be fought here, not in the American and Western European markets.
Looking back at the last four years - the fall of traditional phone giants, the growth of iOS, the emergence of Android, the emergence of tablet devices, the decline of Symbian, the longevity and then decline of BlackBerry - should teach us that if we can predict anything, it is that there will be major changes in the next four years. The least likely option is maintenance of the status quo.