If a research group's reading of the tea leaves is correct, time is on Microsoft's side in the fast-changing smartphone market.
Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts the software giant's Windows Phone 7 will be the second most popular mobile operating system in the world by 2015 with 20.5 percent of the market after Google 's Android, which would dominate with 43.8 percent.
That would be a huge boost from the measly 3.8 percent forecast for this year by IDC. The growth would largely come at the expense of Nokia's declining Symbian platform, which will be gradually replaced with Phone 7 in a deal between Microsoft and the Finnish phone manufacturer announced earlier this year.
Symbian would shrink from 20.6 percent this year to an abysmal 0.1 percent in that analysis, while other major platforms would decline less -- 14.2 percent to 13.4 percent for Research In Motion's BlackBerry and 18.2 percent to 16.9 percent for Apple's iOS, which is currently number two. The only other system to grow in this time frame would be Google's Android, from 38.9 percent to 43.8 percent.
Android's open-source operating system is available on a wide range of devices offered by all major wireless carriers. Microsoft has similar designs for Phone 7, with handsets made by Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE expected to join the current slate of Dell, HTC, Samsung and LG smartphones.
"If you take a look at the devices coming out for 2012 and the anticipated cadence of device releases, it helps push their numbers up," said IDC wireless industry analyst Ramon Llamas, citing conversations with Microsoft and Nokia officials.