Can Windows Phone outpace Apple's iOS by 2015?

The smoothness of Apple's marketing campaign for its mobile products has to be admired. The subtle messages tempting the uninvolved to become part of an exclusive (if somewhat expensive to join) ecosystem has been mimicked, albeit clumsily, by Apple's many competitors.

The company has established an aura of near invincibility, with its brand value skyrocketing last year by 58 per cent to a value of around $33.5 billion, and becoming the eighth most valuable in the world, according to Interbrand's Best Global Brands of 2011 report. But somewhat strangely, given its rocky progress, Nokia remained the most trusted mobile brand in the UK during 2011, according to YouGov, accepting that the company has always found favour among UK consumers.

However, Apple's perception of invincibility looks under threat if you believe a new report from researchers at IHS iSuppli.

The company claims that Microsoft's Windows Phone will overtake Apple's iOS and become the second most popular smartphone operating system by 2015 with a 16.7 per cent share of the market, edging out iOS's 16.6 per cent share. The research firm predicts that 58 per cent of the market will be captured by Google's Android in 2015.

This rise in the popularity of the Windows Phone, down at less than 2 per cent in 2011 according to iSuppli, will be largely driven by resurgent Nokia and its much-hyped Lumia product range.According to iSuppli, Nokia will account for 50 per cent of the Windows phones sold in 2012 and 62 per cent in 2013.

Given that Nokia has yet to release any shipment numbers for Lumia products, and that its smartphone competitors will fight hard to gain a meaningful share of the Windows Phone market, it might be a little early to forecast Nokia winning the lion's share.

Of perhaps greater interest is the likelihood of Apple letting Windows Phone gain market share without a ferocious battle. Apple has world-leading design capabilities, huge financial strength along with slick marketing and distribution. What Apple doesn't have, and Nokia would claim to hold, is strong operator relationships. Its approach, which it might have copied from the Nokia of old, appears to be fraught with stress and unease for operators wanting to carry its smartphone or tablets.

I'm not sure Apple really worries too much about what operators think of its tactics. The company has focused on persuading consumers to join its rather exclusive club--something operators have neglected for years. --Paul