Microsoft's Windows Phone will account for 12.7 percent of all global smartphone shipments in another four years, Canalys said in a forecast released Tuesday.
The growth from just 2.4 percent in 2012 means that Windows Phone will capture third place among all smartphone platforms in 2017, just behind Apple's iOS. To obtain that growth, Microsoft will require an assist not just from Nokia but from Chinese vendors such as Lenovo, Huawei, and ZTE, according to Canalys.
"Nokia is the most active vendor in the Microsoft camp and it continues to make steady progress with its Lumia portfolio," Canalys analyst Jessica Kwee said in a statement. "But longer-term it is the Chinese vendors that are best placed to challenge Samsung's market dominance. Microsoft already has a relationship with Huawei and ZTE in the phone space, and Lenovo is a major partner in the PC space. These partners will be needed to help deliver the scale that Microsoft needs."
Android will still be in the lead in 2017, accounting for 1 billion of the 1.5 billion smartphone shipments anticipated by Canalys. But its market share will dip slightly to 67.1 percent from 67.7 percent last year. Apple's iOS will also lose traction as its 2017 market share drops to 14.1 percent from 19.5 percent in 2012.
"Apple's growth will be curtailed by the fact that momentum in the smartphone market is coming from the low end, and Apple is absent from this segment," Kwee added. "Android's continued dominance is due to the scalability of the platform."
Canalys' forecast seems to discount the impact of a low-end iPhone, which several analysts and other Apple watchers believe will launch later this year.