IDC: Windows Phone 7 to pass Apple's iOS by 2015

The smartphone market is going to continue to surge unabated in 2011, according to the latest forecast from research firm IDC, with the overall smartphone market expected to grow 49.2 percent this year.

Click here for detailsAccording to the research firm, smartphone vendors will ship a total of more than 450 million smartphones this year, up from 303.4 million in 2010. Additionally, IDC forecasts that the smartphone market will grow four times faster than the overall handset market. While the growth of the smartphone market is expected to be prodigious, it is less than the 74.4 percent year-over-year growth in shipments IDC reported at the end of 2010 compared with 2009 shipments.

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform is predicted to claim the top smartphone operating system spot by year-end, with 39.5 percent of the market, according to IDC. Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Symbian will still command 20.9 percent of the market by year-end, and will be followed by Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) rival iOS with 15.7 percent, Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry with 14.9 percent and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 7 and now-defunct Windows Mobile with 5.5 percent of the market.

Peering into the future, IDC predicts that by 2015 Android will command 45.4 percent of the smartphone market in 2015, with Windows Phone commanding 20.9 percent. Apple and RIM's positions are expected to remain relatively steady. This forecast assumes that a great deal of the Symbian market will be transferred to Windows Phone--a result of Nokia's new partnership with Microsoft, which was announced in February.

Hewlett-Packard's webOS platform appears to be tallied in the "other" column, which IDC forcasts to grow from 3.5 percent by the end of this year to only 4.6 percent by 2015.

"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," IDC analyst and FierceWireless contributor Ramon Llamas said in a statement. "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 No. 2 operating system worldwide behind Android."

IDC's long-term predictions should be taken with some caution though. For instance, in 2006, IDC failed to predict the 2010 picture because it did not account for the rise of the iPhone or Android.

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