IDC: Windows Phone 7 to Beat iOS by 2015

IDC just updated their Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker and revised their smartphone forecast through 2015. I long gave up on putting much faith in analyst forecasts, and IDC’s latest marketshare estimates are “interesting,” to say the least:

2011 2015
Forecast Forecast
Android 39.5% 45.4%
BlackBerry 14.9% 13.7%
iOS 15.7% 15.3%
Symbian 20.9% 0.2%
Win Phone 7 5.5% 20.9%
Other 3.5% 4.6%

I would love to see the model and assumptions behind these figures. A few things strike me as odd right off the bat:

  • IDC has much more faith in RIM’s ability to grow their business than I do. RIM’s numbers are already showing signs of weakness, falling behind the industry in unit growth. Why does IDC think this will be reversed?
  • iOS share falls in IDCs forecast, implying faster growth of others in the market. That’s fine, in principle, but IDC expects iOS CAGR to be only 18.8% over the next 4 years. That is a dramatic drop from the past three years. This represents a reversal that implies executional bobbles from the most buttoned-up company in technology today, something I wonder how IDC rationalizes.
  • The turnaround in Windows Phone that these numbers represent is positively epic. I think the link-up with Nokia is smart, but it pairs two companies that are struggling in mobile right now, not two leaders. It will take time for them to get their execution right, much less step into the #2 position. I’d be surprised if even Microsoft is this bullish on their prospects over the next 4 years. As Horace Dediu tweeted:

    In 2010 Apple shipped 48m iPhones and 90m since start. IDC forecast: in 2015 192m Windows Phones will ship. Total 479m between now and then.

  • I think the dark horse in mobile right now is HP, and it appears they are buried down in “Other.” I think IDCs is dramatically underestimating the quality of the WebOS platform and HP’s ability to execute. If HP/Palm doesn’t have at least 10% share in 2 years, I’d be shocked.

The other market dynamic I do not see reflected here is Android’s increasing commoditization.

Android came along at exactly the right time, offering the platform Samsung, LG, HTC and others needed to compete with the then-new iPhone exactly when their alternative, Windows Mobile, was floundering. But the albatross around Android continues to be its ubiquity: it is difficult for OEMs to distinguish their devices when the same underlying bits are available to their competitors. In response, I expect at least one OEM to break from the pack in search of meaningful differentiation and the better margins that go with it. “Vanilla” Android is ultimately a race to the bottom of the market.

Success with this strategy would favor OEMs with the combination of industrial, software and hardware design chops to make something more than just the sum of its parts. Samsung and HTC are ahead of the others in these areas and already positioning themselves at the premium end of the market. A custom fork of Android by one or both of these companies wouldn’t surprise me at all.1

This differentiation-on-custom-Android strategy could be pursued by a new entrant, as well. The one that intrigues me the most? Amazon.

  1. Building an OS is also not the mysterious thing it once was and it would not surprise me to see one OEM test this concept out in the next few years (e.g. Samsung’s Bada ). 

Posted 29 March 2011 under Technology

Comments (3)

  1. That is like saying that toyota will overtake BMW in marketshare….we’re talking apples and oranges.

    Also, I don’t know how accurate this is. All it is going to take is Apples engineers to build a sub 200 dollar phone in order for it to be free for the end user. AT&T / Verizon will subsidize the rest.

    You telling me if you had a free choice, you’d pick a MSFT phone over the iPhone?


  2. There’s a lot of good reason to believe that Apple will do exactly that, too. I think that iPhone and iPad will eventually become a full product line, at a range of price points, just like iMacs, and MacBooks are now. You could even argue that iPad is already there now, with a total of 18 models (in the U.S.) with different RAM, colors and radios.

    It’s also funny to use the word “accurate” when talking about this kind of thing. If you were a customer of IDC’s and bought their Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, you’d be paying probably $2,000-3,000 for what is basically just a guess.

    Of course, in an ideal world, it’s a guess by a very smart person who knows the industry, technology and players very well. But ultimately, somewhere deep inside IDC there is an analyst who made some assumptions, created a spreadsheet and built what IDC is selling.

    Hence my focus on the assumptions. I can’t understand where they’d get numbers like these, since the assumptions you’d need to make — like M+Nokia executing near perfectly for the next 4 years — to arrive at these conclusions are very difficult to believe.


  3. Pingback: @asymco on IDC: Oddly safe assumptions | punchingIN

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *