Microsoft has gotten off to a slow start in the mobile world -- but a new analysis suggests it could edge its way into second place within four years.
Windows Phone will capture a market share of 19.2 percent in 2016, up from just 5.2 percent this year, projects market-research firm IDC. That number will inch past the 19 percent share garnered by Apple's iOS, down slightly from 20.5 percent this year. The surge in Microsoft's mobile share will receive a big boost from demand for Nokia's Lumia phones, especially in key emerging markets, IDC added.
Though it may lose a bit of market share in four years, Apple's iOS will still stay strong across the major regions of North America, Western Europe, and Asia/Pacific, specifically China. But growth in emerging markets will be vital if Apple expects to scoop up additional customers.
Android will continue to reign as the top mobile OS, but IDC expects a downturn over the next four years. Despite help from Samsung smartphones, Android's 2016 share is projected at 52.9 percent, down from 61 percent this year.
Currently facing challenges with its BlackBerry platform, RIM's share will stay relatively flat, according to IDC, which projects a market share of 5.9 percent in 2016, compared with 6 percent this year.
"Underpinning the smartphone market is the constantly shifting OS landscape," IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said in a statement. "Android will maintain leadership throughout our forecast, while others will gain more mobile operator partnerships (Apple) or currently find themselves in the midst of a major transition (BlackBerry and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile)."
Other analysts have projected strong gains for Windows Phone, especially in light of Microsoft's partnership with Nokia.
The Lumia 900 has already gotten off to a solid start, at least in certain parts of the world.
But Microsoft will face continued challenges trying to eke its way up the mobile ladder. Nokia's push will certainly help drive growth for Windows Phone in key markets. Microsoft, however, still needs to work with other device makers, most of whom have and will continue to focus on Android as their bread and butter.
And Apple can never be discounted as demand for each new iPhone drives up sales and profits, guaranteeing the company a healthy chunk of the smartphone market.
With a landscape dominated by Apple and Android, Windows Phone certainly has its work cut before it can make a dent as a major player.