If you’re an Apple or Android fan, you’ve probably been basking in the warmth of market dominance thus far as your favorite operating system rises above all others. But if recent reports are any indication, the growth isn’t going to last as new leaders begin to emerge and old leaders fall back.

According to market research firm IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report, 2012 is the beginning of a major shift in smartphone sales, now dominated by Android and iOS. However, during the period between 2012 and 2016, the IDC sees Android’s share of the global smartphone market dipping from 61% to 52.9%, iOS from 20.5% to 19% and — here’s the kicker — Windows Phone will balloon from 5.2% in 2012 to 19.2% in 2016, passing iOS as the number two smartphone platform in the world.

We can already see this trend going that way with recent sales, along with Windows Phone’s recent achievement of over 100,000 apps in its Marketplace five months faster than Android had taken to hit that mark.

“Underpinning the smartphone market is the constantly shifting OS landscape,” IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said. “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). What remains to be seen is how these different operating systems – as well as others – will define and shape the user experience beyond what we see today in order to attract new customers and encourage replacements.”

As for RIM, the IDC report expects their smartphone market share to remain relatively flat, moving from 6% in 2012 to 5.9% in 2016. This is rather bleak for those of us looking forward to a major BlackBerry 10 turnaround.

While any number of factors can and will influence the numbers in this report, such as the upcoming Mozilla Boot to Gecko launch, a (possible) mobile version of the Ubuntu OS, or even an additional competitor coming to market and altering the mobile landscape completely — or a competitor such as RIM exiting the market — it appears we will see three dominant operating systems competing for our hearts in the near to far future: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

  • Charles Brenon

    Sweet. Although there’s way too many variables to really now for sure, especially with B2G and everything coming up.

  • Leonard Marks

    great post

  • M Karuppasamy

    Surprising to see an unrealistic, unexpected and impossible scenario from IDC! What happens to their reputation? I cant help thinking that they were funded by MS for this research. Windows will never catch up anywhere close to IOS or Android. It is not a constantly changing landscape as said in the article and is a convenient way to describe a new market terrain with initial settling down phase. That phase is over and IDC wants to make MS happy by selling this dream. There is hardly any takers for Windows among phone users, handset makers and even etnerprises which was the only hope for MS to expand using the clout on the desktop. The recent explosion of computing on the streets (Mobiles and Pads) had proven that hardware or software platform has no relevance (for good) for the users and what is good survivies. MS can never make anything good first time and every time. So they are doomed from mobile space which ultimately will spread to desktops. MS better derisk themselves by spreading to new technology and products. They are losers in mobile which will start impacting their enterprise stronghold too!

    • Eddie

      I beg to differ. There are a lot of Windows Phone users out there, and there are more all the time. Also, with a 75%+ interest by developers in developing for WP8, we could very well see that shift. Look at the market trends.

      It just seems like you have a grudge against Microsoft from what I see in your comment. I see people all the time in the real world using WP devices. Granted, it’s not nearly as many as Android and iOS right now but considering WP has been on the market just over a year and a half and has already surpassed the 100,000 app mark and has millions of users, I really don’t see how this is so impossible at all.

      And this is coming from an iPhone user.