TORONTO - A new eyebrow-raising report suggests an underdog in the mobile phone wars is just a few years away from overtaking Apple as the second largest smartphone seller in the world.
Sadly for Research in Motion (TSX:RIM), it's not the BlackBerry being heralded as a giant killer but Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, which research firm IDC says will surpass Apple's iPhones by 2016.
As of this year, Google's Android platform has the global lead with 61 per cent of the smartphone market, followed by Apple with 20.5 per cent, RIM at six per cent and Windows at 5.2 per cent, according to IDC.
By 2016, IDC sees Android at 52.9 per cent, Windows Phone at 19.2 per cent, Apple at 19 per cent and RIM down just a tenth of a percentage point to 5.9 per cent.
The report was encouraging news for Chris Weber, Nokia's president of the North American market, who was in Toronto on Wednesday for the Canadian Telecom Summit.
If Windows Phone is to take off, its fortunes will largely be tied to the success of Nokia, which recently launched a line of competitively priced and well-reviewed smartphones under the Lumia brand.
The higher-end Lumia 900 sells for about $30 on a three-year contract compared to the starting price of $160 for the iPhone 4S with the same commitment.
Weber wouldn't put a timeline on when Windows Phone could seriously rival Apple but said Nokia is looking to build off the positive press and user feedback the Lumias have received.
"What our team is myopically focused on is how much that consumer loves the device and how much they're willing to recommend it to family and friends —the technical term is net promoter score," he said.
"If we get that right, we think the business results will take care of themselves."
He predicted only three major platforms will survive in the smartphone space.
"Building these (mobile) ecosystems is not for the faint of heart and quite frankly, it takes massive investment to build it at a global scale, he said.
"My view is there's only a few companies in the world who can do that and I see those today as Microsoft, Apple and Google."
Weber said he believes Windows Phone can break RIM's hold on the enterprise market — not that he sees Nokia coming out and declaring war against the BlackBerry.
"Our messaging isn't so much against any competitor, we're really focused on highlighting the core differentiators of our platform," he said.
"There's some really exclusive things in the Windows platform that resonates with the business audience, and I think what Nokia's brought, particularly with the Lumia product line, is creating a set of devices that are appealing to business users, executives."