Predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. But, by the same token, even if they don't pan out completely, they can be indicators of the general direction of things. With that in mind, it's significant that IDC predicts that in 2016, Microsoft's smartphone initiative - essentially, its Windows Phone line - is looking at what many would call unexpectedly good future.
The firm - as outlined in the Newsfactor story - will outsell Apple's iOS devices within a half-decade. It will not overcome Android. But, at this point, the company almost certainly will settle for second place. The second paragraph of the story sums it up nicely:
The study indicated that Phone 7's upward climb will be assisted by Nokia's continuing strength in emerging markets. By 2016, the research firm expects the mobile platform to squeak by Apple's market share, with 19.2 percent for Microsoft and 19 percent for Apple. That compares with 2012 market share of 5.2 percent for Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile and 20.5 percent for iOS.
Increasing market share by almost a factor of four is decidedly better news than people were expecting to hear. That's so even if the lion's share of the newfound strength is from lower-margin, lower-priced emerging markets. The story, and the IDC research on which it was based, said that Microsoft and its Windows Phone are looking ahead to the release of Windows 8, which will play a big role in whether that more positive future will be realized. No doubt the positive predictions assume an effective integration job by Redmond.
Likewise, the story said, BlackBerry 10 is expected later this year. Hopefully, from Research In Motion's point of view, it will keep the company from complete irrelevancy. At this point, the smart money is on BlackBerry fading. But, as in predicting Super Bowls and Stanley Cups, the games - be they on the ice, turf or market - must be played.
Intel is just getting started in the smartphone market. The first smartphones with Intel processors came out earlier this year, with Lava International releasing the Xolo X900 smartphone in India, followed by Orange releasing the San Diego in the U.K and Lenovo launching the LePhone K800 in China. Other smartphones with Intel chips will come from Motorola later this year, while ZTE is also scheduled to release an Intel-based handset. The smartphones use single-core Atom processors code-named Medfield.
In a post at Forbes, John Furrier put IDC's prediction for Windows Phone in context of a general sharpening of Microsoft's strategy. Indeed, in the second paragraph of the piece he gave Microsoft quite a compliment. He essentially said that it is cherry picking what works for Google (a strategy of linking and "pooling" around existing products) and Apple (targeting its operating system around a small number of devices). Throw in a cloud element and the Windows' enterprise integration - which is easier than other operating systems - and things start to look better, he said.
We've been hearing for too long that Windows Phone is in trouble to believe a little bit of good news will magically turn things around. By the same token, a little good news is a lot better than a little bad news.