Analysts Pulling for Windows Phone 7 as Third Horse in Three-Horse Race

Analysts are now predicting that Microsoft’s mobile platform will become the third platform after Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating system in a three-horse race the finish, with Windows Phone 7 beating out Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS and the open-source Symbian platform, which Nokia has recently abandoned in the U.S.

Despite having a small market share currently–Windows Phone 7 launched about a year ago to replace Microsoft’s aging Windows Mobile platform–the platform has managed to gain momentum to attract developers, new hardware manufacturers, and new carrier relationships and distribution channels. Most recently, Microsoft’s high profile announcement occurred in February where the Windows Phone 7 software-maker announced that it had found a partner in Nokia, the largest phone-maker in the world that had previously standardized on the Symbian platform–to deliver new and innovative handsets. Also, with Nokia’s reach into emerging markets, it will also help benefit Microsoft to deliver the platform to those markets where Nokia has strong brand presence as well.

However, as optimistic as analysts and developers are about the prospect of Windows Phone 7 in the future, they remain cautious. Michael Vakulenko with VisionMobile says, “Windows Phone has a good chance to become the third ecosystem but the question is how far it will be from the two leaders,” but he concedes that “any developer who decides to invest in Windows Phone 7 needs to consider alternatives and that’s always Android and iPhone.”

Bloomberg is also reporting that while Windows Phone 7 may emerge to a third-place finish, developers will continue to develop for Microsoft’s rival mobile platforms, including iOS and Android:

“People will take Windows Phone 7 as the third one to go for but I don’t think it’s going to stop many people from building iPhone or Android apps,” said Hume of Future Platforms.

It’d be interesting moving forward to see if a Microsoft-Nokia partnership will help to drive more apps inside Microsoft’s Marketplace for Windows Phone app store. Though the platform is still new, Microsoft has been pretty aggressive and successful in courting important apps and content for the platform, including Amazon’s Kindle app for e-books, Netflix for video streaming, and social networking apps such as Twitter and Facebook early on. The company’s partnership with Netflix is important as it had beaten out Android in the race to market with streaming support, despite having less market share.