Linux remains a scrappy contender in the smartphone wars

While Android and Apple dominate mobile, Microsoft, BlackBerry, and Linux platforms duke it out for third place

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Microsoft, meanwhile, may have some cause of celebration -- or at least optimism. Six million smartphones running Windows Phone/Windows Mobile shipped in Q4 2012, a 150 percent year-over-year increase; only 2.4 million Windows-power smartphones shipped in Q4 2011. Microsoft's mobile-platform market share for the quarter was 2.6 percent, up from 1.5 percent for Q4 2011.

For the entirety of 2012, 17.9 million smartphones running Windows Phone/Windows Mobile shipped, a 98.9 percent increase over the 9 million that shipped in 2011. IDC pegged Microsoft's market share for the 2012 at 2.5 percent, up from 1.8 percent in 2011.

Just as Samsung has been integral to Android's success, Nokia has played a critical role in helping Microsoft gain a greater foothold on the mobile market. "The addition of Nokia's strong commitment behind the platform was the key driver in Microsoft's success," according to IDC. "At the same time, the relationship has benefited Nokia, which amassed 76 percent of all Windows Phone/Windows Mobile smartphone shipments."

The list of hardware vendors dabbling with Windows Phone beyond Nokia is a short one, IDC observed.

"There is no question the road ahead is uphill for both Microsoft and BlackBerry, but history shows us consumers are open to change. Platform diversity is something not only the consumers have asked for, but also the operators," said Ryan Reith, program manager with IDC's Mobile Device Trackers.

Finally, Linux cracked the top five mobile platforms for the quarter: All told, 3.8 million Linux-loaded smartphones shipped in Q4, though that was a year-over-year decrease of 2.6 percent: 3.9 million Linux smartphones shipped in Q4 2011.

Although Linux lost support as a mobile platform from Panasonic and NEC, both of whom moved to Android, IDC said that newcomers K-Touch and Haier making up the difference. "Linux will bear close observation in 2013 as new smartphones for SailFish, Tizen, and Ubuntu are all scheduled to launch this year," according to IDC. "Still, these new Linux-powered operating systems will require time and investment to gain momentum in the market, making for a slowly growing trajectory."

Linux did not make a significantly substantial impact in the mobile space to earning a top-five ranking for the year. Symbian finished 2012 with a market share of 3.3 percent, seeing 23.9 million smartphones ship. By contest, 81.5 million Symbian smartphones shipped in 2011, and the platform had a 16.5 percent market share.

This story, "Linux remains a scrappy contender in the smartphone wars," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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