IDC predicts the collapse of the Windows Phone by 2020

The proposed Surface phone won't change things

IDC predicts the collapse of Windows Phone by 2020
Credit: Mark Hachman

Microsoft’s mobile OS is tracking to eventually drop to 0.1 percent market share, and the proposed Surface Phone line expected next year won't do anything to stop that decline. 

That's the conclusion from IDC, which just released its latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. It puts global smartphone year-over-year growth in 2016 at a paltry 0.6 percent That's a major drop from the 10.4 percent year-over-year growth in 2015. 

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However, that's the total market. For just 4G smartphones, IDC predicts a 21.3 percent year-over-year growth globally for 2016, reaching 1.17 billion units. Much of this growth is coming from emerging markets, such as Asia/Pacific—excluding Japan—Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Africa. Mature markets such as the U.S., Canada, Japan and Western Europe are further along the 4G adoption curve, so the growth is slower.

IDC predicts Android will remain the majority share platform in smartphones for the foreseeable future, while all signs point to 2016 as being the first full year of declining shipments for Apple's iPhone. The firm believes Apple has something big in store for the iPhone, since 2017 is the 10-year anniversary of the device. 

Microsoft’s mobile platform a non-story in 2016 

As for the hapless Windows Phone, Microsoft's mobile platform remained "largely a non-story in 2016," according to IDC. HP came out with the very impressive X3 phone, but that was it. Even Microsoft didn't introduce a new Lumia. Rumors of a Surface-branded phone from Microsoft next year linger, but the drawn-out hurdle of a much-needed mobile ecosystem has not gone away. Microsoft needs OEMs and developers, and it doesn’t have much of either at the moment.

IDC expects a total of 6.1 million Windows phones to sell this year, for a market share of 0.4 percent. This will fall to a disappointing 0.1 percent share in 2020, with shipments reaching 1 million units in four years—assuming they can even sell them by that point. 

IDC estimates Android to grow from 85 percent share this year to 85.6 percent in 2020, while iOS will lose a bit more ground, going from 14.3 percent to 14.2 percent.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Windows Phone OS is a very nice operating system, and it did the whole tiled interface right—far better than Windows 8. But Microsoft just couldn't get it together with OEMs and application developers, and I don't see how they will be able to restart essentially from zero with a Surface phone next year.

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