Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's mobile phone team, said the firm expects Android to hold its lead in smartphones, but that the OS will be the biggest target for competing operating systems to grab market share.
"At the same time, Windows Phone stands to gain the most market share as its smartphone and carrier partners have gained valuable experience in selling the differentiated experience Windows Phone has to offer," Llamas said. "What bears close observation is how BlackBerry's new platform, BlackBerry 10, and multiple versions of Linux will affect the market once the devices running these systems are available."
Apple Inc.'s iOS is expected to maintain its position as the clear number No. 2 platform behind Android at the end of 2012 and through 2016, IDC said. The popularity of the iPhone across multiple markets will drive steady replacements and additional carrier partners will help Apple grow iOS volume, IDC said.
But the market research firm said the high price point of the iPhone relative to other smartphones will make it cost prohibitive for some users within many emerging markets. In order to maintain current growth rates, Apple will need to examine the possibility of offering less expensive models, similar to its iPod line, IDC said.
The BlackBerry OS will grow slowly but largely maintain share over the coming years following the BlackBerry 10 launch next year, according to IDC's forecast. The new operating system and devices will be valued by some longtime BlackBerry fans, particularly those who have waited for the new OS as Research In Motion delayed its release, IDC said.
Windows Phone will battle with BlackBerry for the number three spot in 2013, but will pull away in the years that follow, IDC predicted.