IDC Projects Windows to Top iOS Within Four Years

It’s a difficult reality to image today. But by 2016, the Windows Phone platform may top iOS in global smartphone shipments.

That’s the new – and very bold – projection from market research giant IDC.

On Wednesday, IDC published an insightful new report suggesting that the worldwide mobile phone market will grow slightly more than 4.0% year over year in 2012, with potentially huge shifts in the mobile landscape to follow.

“The smartphone parade won’t be as lively this year as it has been in past,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “The mobile phone user transition from feature phones to smartphones will continue in a gradual but unabated fashion. Smartphone growth, however, will increasingly be driven by a triumvirate of smartphone operating systems, namely Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.”

IDC projects Android will remain the most shipped smartphone operating system over the course of the five-year forecast though its share will peak this year. Most provocatively, however, is IDC’s projection for the Windows Phone platform.

“Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will gain share despite a slow start,” the company says. “Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will be aided by Nokia’s strength in key emerging markets. IDC expects it to be the number 2 OS with more than 19% share in 2016, assuming Nokia’s foothold in emerging markets is maintained.”