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IDC: Microsoft Windows Phone Will Top Apple's iOS By 2016

The research firm expects Microsoft's Windows Phone OS will see a 46.2 compound annual growth rate over the next four years.

The projection, which echoes a similar report published by IDC last year that pegged Windows Phone to beat out Apple by 2015, suggests Android will be the most dominant smartphone platform in four years, accounting for 52.9 percent of the world’s smartphone subscriber base. Microsoft's Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile OS will be next in line with 19.2 percent, and Apple's iOS will fall to third with 19 percent.

Though Windows' projected 0.2 percent edge over iOS may seem minimal, a 19.2 percent share of the market would represent a whopping 46.2 percent compound annual growth rate for the OS over the next four years, which is more than both the Android and iOS growth rate combined, according to IDC.

[Related: 8 'iPhone 5' Rumors To Keep An Eye On ]

Today, Windows Phone only accounts for 5.2 percent of the global smartphone market, compared to Android's 61 percent and iOS' 20.5 percent. According to IDC, much of the growth that Windows Phone is poised to see over the next four years will stem from the success of Nokia, the Finnish handset maker that runs the software on the majority of its smartphones.

"Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will gain share despite a slow start," IDC wrote in the report. "Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will be aided by Nokia's strength in key emerging markets. IDC expects it to be the No. 2 OS with more than 19 percent share in 2016, assuming Nokia's foothold in emerging markets is maintained."

Exactly how Nokia will fare in emerging markets over the next four years remains to be seen. In April, the company reported a loss of $1.8 billion on revenue of $9.7 billion, which was down 30 percent year-over-year. Much of this loss was attributed to "greater-than-expected competitive challenges" in the mobile market.

Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO, said the company's new Windows-based Lumia devices, in particular, have met with success in the U.S. but have been struggling to gain traction on a larger, global scale.

"The actual sales results have been mixed," Elop said of the company's Lumia line. "We exceeded expectations in markets including the United States, but establishing momentum in certain markets including the UK has been more challenging."

While iOS and Windows Phone grapple for the runner-up spot, IDC said that Google’s Android will be able to retain its market-share lead over the next four years due to its use by a large pool of OEMs, including HTC and Samsung.

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