Forecast: Windows Phone shipments in 2017 will match iOS shipments in 2012

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The number of Windows Phone-powered devices shipping worldwide in 2017 will match the number of iOS units shipped by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in 2012, according to a new Analysys Mason forecast.

Although Analysys Mason believes Windows Phone will grow faster than any other smartphone operating system over the next five years, growing from 11 million units in 2011 to 136 million units by 2017, the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) platform will still account for only 9 percent of global smartphone shipments at the end of the forecast period, behind iOS at 23 percent. Analysys Mason adds that Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android will account for 58 percent of all smartphones shipped worldwide by the end of 2013, but its growth will remain stagnant for the remainder of the forecast period in the absence of other platforms from which it can capture additional market share.

"Having a third significant OS player like Windows in the smartphone market would benefit mobile operators because it would reduce Apple's and Google's control over the market," said Ronan de Renesse, principal analyst for Analysys Mason's mobile broadband and devices research program. "It would also encourage subscribers to move from one OS to another, as well as improve operators' negotiating position in smartphone retail."

Analysys Mason anticipates that total smartphone connections will grow nearly threefold in the next five years, reaching 3.4 billion in 2017. Smartphone shipments will leap from 700 million in 2012 (translating to 41.2 percent of total handset shipments) to 1.37 billion by the end of 2017 (70 percent of total shipments).

The firm also believes that smartphone upgrades will drive three out of every four smartphone purchases by 2017, compared to less than half of all purchases in 2012. "This will create a significant strategy shift for stakeholders," de Renesse said. "Operators will have to increase the value of smartphone contracts by offering early handset upgrades and larger data allowances to retain customers, and handset vendors will have to develop stronger app and content ecosystems (as Apple has done) in order to increase loyalty."

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