Nokia's Symbian mobile OS currently leads in market share, but Framington, Mass.-based IDC sees Google's Android mobile OS as the number two competitor by 2013. The report, "Worldwide Mobile OS 2009-2013 Forecast and Analysis: December 2009," announced on Monday, provides a high-level view of the various mobile OS platforms. IDC is predicting a 20.9 percent annual growth rate in worldwide shipments of "converged mobile devices."
The surprise showing in the report turned out to be Google's Android mobile OS platform, according to William A. Stofega, project manager at IDC.
"Nokia has a strong hold on the worldwide smart phone market, and we projected that Symbian would continue to lead the pack in mobility," Stofega said in a telephone interview. "We were a bit surprised by the strides Android is taking and its adoption by device makers and consumers."
Stofega said that Android has been gaining popularity with handset vendors because of its open platform for development and the absence of licensing fees.
"Google has made it easier for vendors to leverage the code base of Android for development," Stofega said. "Importantly, it is a high-level OS that supports high-end devices, but it also has the potential to go down-market with less expensive devices."
He noted that while Apple's iPhone enjoys huge success in the United States and areas of Western Europe, it has not done well in markets such as China and India, where price is a major factor.
Legacy players, such as BlackBerry, Symbian and Microsoft's Windows Mobile, are being outdone by "newcomers touting open standards, intuitive design and navigation," according to IDC's announcement of the study.
Microsoft has so far remained mum on when its next major mobile platform iteration (Windows Mobile 7) will be released. The company will hold a press conference on Feb. 15 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. It could be the next springboard for any Microsoft mobile OS news.
"We have steadily delivered on our commitment to ship additional features and services through a regular stream of exciting new devices," a Microsoft spokesperson stated by e-mail on Tuesday. "We're always working on future versions and have nothing new to announce."
Speculation around Microsoft releasing a "Zune Phone" running on Windows Mobile 7 has been ongoing for many months. The device, sometimes rumored to be a "Project Pink" phone, is expected to go head-to-head with Apple's iPhone.
With a host of new devices hitting the market this year, Stofega noted that the definitions of smart phones, or converged mobile devices, and netbooks are getting a little blurry.
"There's a lot of fluidity and flexibility in the mobile device market, and we are seeing all kinds of adaptations morphing Internet connectivity to telephony," Stofega said. "The defining factors for these new devices will be the pain of adoptability and the cost."
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