IDC generated a lot of buzz on Tuesday with its prediction that Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 would become the No. 2 smartphone platform by 2015, behind only Google's Android. (Also see: Windows Phone 7 to surpass iPhone, BlackBerry sales by 2015, IDC predicts) Given WP7's current fifth-place standing and single-digit global mobile OS market share, IDC's forecast seems generous toward Microsoft's platform. But it's attracted at least conditional support among the tech analyst community, mainly because of Redmond's new partnership with Nokia, the Finnish mobile device maker that had a leading 36 percent market share of all smartphones (303 million) shipped in 2010. Now ABI Research has released its own smartphone market forecast that matches IDC's in one respect -- both have Google's Android emerging as the undisputed market leader in just a few years, with IDC projecting Android will have 45 percent of the global smartphone market by 2015 and ABI forecasting the same percentage for 2016. But whereas IDC said it expects Windows Phone 7 to reach 21 percent market share by 2015 -- passing Apple's iOS (at 15.3 percent) and Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS at 13.7 percent -- ABI paints a less optimistic view of Microsoft's chances of emerging as a major smartphone player. ABI senior analyst Michael Morgan writes: Windows Phone 7 ... which shipped in two million handsets in Q4 2010, will have to find incredible success through its Nokia channel to take more than 7% of the market by 2016.” That sounds about right. It's not entirely dismissive of WP7, but it implies that Microsoft and Nokia -- two giant corporations with bureaucratic cultures -- would have to move nimbly and execute perfectly to grab meaningful market share. Does anyone really think that's going to happen? Mark my words, they'll be at each other's throats from the beginning. ABI predicts that Apple will grow from a current market share of 15 percent to 19 percent by 2016, placing it a distant second behind Android. RIM will slip to 14 percent market share in 2016 from 16 percent in 2010, ABI forecasts.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.