Thanks mainly to the new Lumia 900 and Nokia, Windows Phone could represent nearly 17% of the smartphones shipped in 2015, edging out Apple's iPhone for the second-place ranking behind Android smartphones.
That's the view of analysts at IHS (formerly iSuppli) who are well aware that Windows Phone made up only 1.9% of the market for all of 2011, with Apple's iOS at 18% and Android smartphones by all makers at 47.4%. (Note: Apple's iPhone share surged to 44% in the fourth quarter, according to Nielsen and others.)
IHS said Thursday that Windows Phone will reach 16.7% of market share in 2015, behind first-ranked Android at 58.1% and just slightly ahead of iOS at 16.6%.
IHS said the introduction of the Lumia 900 running Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) at CES last week showed Microsoft's and Nokia's promise in smartphones. The Lumia 900 will be the first Nokia device to run over fast 4G LTE and will be sold by AT&T in the U.S. in the coming weeks. Pricing has not been announced.
Also, Nokia plans to sell the Nokia 900 to businesses through Microsoft's business channels, taking advantage of a rich array of business software built by Microsoft, IHS said. As such, Lumia 900 will be competing against an entrenched base of BlackBerry smartphone users in North America.
The Lumia 900 is also rolling out first in North America, where Nokia has traditionally been a weak player, IHS noted. It will help in the U.S. that the smartphone has a large 4.3-in. Amoled touchscreen and a 12-megapixel camera, making it competitive with the best Android phones on the market, IHS noted.
"The introduction of the Lumia 900 shows that Nokia believes the road back to smartphone dominance runs through North America," Francis Sideco, an analyst for HIS, said in a statement. "And the way to win North America is through its operator channels."
"The Lumia 900 and its successors will help Microsoft to reclaim the number 2 ranking in smartphone operating system market share in 2015," said Wayne Lam, another IHS analyst.
IHS realizes that Nokia won't be the only seller of Windows Phone smartphones, but will still sell about half of all Microsoft OS-based handsets in 2012. That percentage will rise to 62% in 2013, before declining in 2014 as other manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC catch up.
IHS also believes that Nokia, which is a well-established manufacturer globally, will help lure app developers to the Windows Phone platform to help expand its popularity.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.