More evidence that Windows Phone is hot on the heels of Blackberry: Shipments jump 150%, while Blackberry's fall 43%

The good news continues for Windows Phone: A report from IDC finds that it's closing in on Blackberry to become the number three smartphone operating system, thanks to a 150% increase in sales over past year, while Blackberry tumbled 43%. The findings are almost identical to a recent Gartner report.

The IDC report found that Windows Phone/Windows Mobile had a 2.6% market share in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 1.5% a year previous. Shipments were 6 million in the quarter, compared to 2.4 million a year previous, for a 150% increase.

Blackberry was headed in the opposite direction, dropping from 8.1% market share in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 3.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012. Shipments were 7.4 million in the quarter, a 43.1% plummet from 13 million a year previous.

Android, meanwhile, cleaned up, with a whopping 70.1% market share in the fourth quarter of 2012, and 159.8 million units shipped. That's up from a 52.9% market share a year previous, and an 88% increase in shipments from its 85 million shipped in the year previous. iOS, meanwhile had a 21% market share in the fourth quarter, down from 23% a year previous. Shipments increased 29.2%, from 37 million to 47.8 million.

The numbers echo a recent Gartner report, which found that Windows Phone sales jumped 124% in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to a year previous, leading to a 3% market share, while Blackberry sales sharply decreased, and had a 3.5% market share in the quarter.

That means both reports show Windows Phone within striking distance of Blackberry, about .5% behind. The IDC report has warnings for Blackberry. It explained its market plunge and problems it now faces this way:

BlackBerry's decision to postpone the release of BB10 to 2013 left the platform vulnerable in 2012 and reliant primarily on older smartphones running on BB7. As a result, BlackBerry's tight grip on enterprise users has loosened and its popularity within emerging markets has been diminished by the competition. Now that BlackBerry has unveiled BB10, the company is faced with migrating current BlackBerry users to upgrade while persuading smartphone users of other platforms, including previous BlackBerry users, to switch.

As for Windows Phone, it attributed much of its growth to Nokia's commitment to the OS, but warned that other vendors need to push the operating system as well if it's to succeed:

Windows Phone/Windows Mobile made market-beating progress in 4Q12 and 2012. The addition of Nokia's strong commitment behind the platform was the key driver in Microsoft's success. At the same time, the relationship has benefited Nokia, which amassed 76.0% of all Windows Phone/Windows Mobile smartphone shipments. Beyond Nokia, however, is a short list of other vendors who have been experimenting with Windows Phone while also supporting Android.

Microsoft will have an easier time than Blackberry, and I expect it will overtake it, possibly relatively soon. Other vendors, notably HTC and Samsung, have committed to it. Windows Phone's ecosystem is also far more robust than Blackberry's, including SkyDrive cloud-based storage, Windows for PCs and tablets, Microsoft Office, the Xbox gaming system, and much more.

Android and iOS are continuing to pull away from Windows Phone and are out of reach. Android, for example, had 74.8 million more phone shipments in the fourth quarter than a year previous, and iOS had 10.8 million more phone shipments than a year previous. Windows Phone had only 3.6 million more shipments than a year previous. So with each passing month, it falls further and further behind.

Still, it's within striking distance of third place, and Microsoft should be glad for that.

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