Surge in Smartphone Sales: Good News for Apple, Motorola, Microsoft

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Smartphone sales should rise 49% this year to 450 million units, according to a new survey from electronics research firm IDC. The 2011 smartphone market is expected to grow four times faster than the market for traditional mobile handsets.

Further, Google's (GOOG) Android is expected to bump Symbian and move into the No.1 spot for mobile operating systems, taking about 40% of the total market.

The winners and losers in the smartphone business should emerge quickly. And, if the predictions from IDC are correct, Motorola -- which relies heavily on Android to power its Droid smartphones -- should come out on the winning side. Only three years ago, however, the company was near death's door after it failed to follow up the successful RAZR with a new handset.

Another company that relies on Android, Asia's HTC (HTCFX), should also be helped by a rise in Android-based smartphone sales.

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Apple's (AAPL) iPhone may lose ground to the Android OS, but its strong sales should continue, boosted by the rising tide of smartphones overall. The launch of the iPhone 4 has been a success, and there are rumors that the iPhone 5 will be released late this year or early next. Apple iOS market share will hold at 15% of the smartphone market over the next four years, IDC predicts.

Research In Motion (RIMM), perhaps surprisingly, is expected to hold up fairly well. Its operating system will only drop from 15% to 14% between now and 2015, according to IDC predictions. The company's shares have been besieged by concerns that the BlackBerry has lost and will continue to lose ground to competing products.

The biggest surprise in the report is the prediction that the market share of Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Phone will rise from less than 6% to 20% between 2011 and 2015. This, however, is dependent on Nokia's (NOK) smartphone sales. The success of Windows Phone 7 is almost entirely linked to the fortunes of the largest handset company in the world -- and Nokia's ongoing failure in the sector may make that prediction nearly impossible to realize.

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