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Gauging Windows Phone's chances against the iPhone

Latest report says Windows Phone will be neck-and-neck with iPhone by 2017.

Some time back, IDC predicted that Windows Phone would overtake iPhone to be the dominant platform in the smartphone business. This was met with a round of snickering and outright laughter. IDC gave Microsoft and Nokia until 2015, so they have two years to go, but right now, it doesn't look like it will happen, does it?

And, according to this report from Canalys, it won't happen. Canalys predicts that by 2017, the iPhone will have a 14.1% market share, while Windows Phone is right behind it with a 12.7% share. As of last year, the iPhone had a 19.5% market share, and Windows Phone a 2.4% market share.

Nothing changes with the Android market, which at this point should be called the Samsung market. It had 67.7% market share last year and will be at 67.1% in 2017.

Jessica Kwee, analyst with Canalys, said in the report that "Apple's growth will be curtailed by the fact that momentum in the smartphone market is coming from the low end, and Apple is absent from this segment."

Conversely, Microsoft and its partners, particularly Huawei, will deliver lower-end phones at more competitive pricing. Over the long term, the low-cost Chinese manufacturers will be what pushes Windows Phone into double digits.

"Longer-term it is the Chinese vendors that are best placed to challenge Samsung's market dominance. Microsoft already has a relationship with Huawei and ZTE in the phone space, and Lenovo is a major partner in the PC space. These partners will be needed to help deliver the scale that Microsoft needs," Kwee wrote.

I can agree on the Apple side of the analysis. Apple has always been a premium product maker for an affluent audience, and there is no intention of changing that. The game changer will be if Windows Phone ever lands OEMs that will push into the high end. It had LG and Samsung, then lost both. Nokia is going a great job, better than I expected, but it is essentially going it alone.

Then again, that's how most of the smartphone market is operating if you think about it. The iOS market is Apple only. BlackBerry has talked of licensing its OS; so far, no takers. Nokia is pretty much the Windows Phone market with a little on the low-end via HTC, and Samsung is almost half of the total Android market.

There are other variables I don't think Canalys took into consideration. What will Samsung do when it ships its Tizen OS? That will surely change the landscape. What if Windows Phone gains momentum and some of these also-ran Android phone companies decide they have a better chance with WP than against Samsung?

That's why market predictions, like the weather in New England, are impossible to predict beyond one day.

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