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Analysts: Crack the US and Windows Phone will surpass iOS

Much of the chatter in the smartphone world lately has been about iOS vs. Android. But where does Microsoft and Windows Phone fit in? Can Windows 8 help boost the struggling mobile OS?

According to new data from Strategy Analytics, Windows Phone will hit four per cent smartphone share in the crucial US market this year, "rising steadily" from three per cent last year.

Much of the Windows Phone purchases will be driven by Nokia, HTC, and Samsung devices.

"Microsoft is making a determined push to crack the United States because it is the most valuable and influential smartphone market in the world," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement. "However, Microsoft's US smartphone market share remains relatively niche at present and breaking the stranglehold of leaders Android and Apple will not be easy."

Mawston said Windows Phone 8 needs to "dramatically improve support for advanced technologies like multi-core chipsets, enhance the Marketplace app store, expand the number of phone models available from major partners like Nokia or Samsung, and consider reducing the license fees it charges per unit to smartphone makers."

Despite the modest projected growth, Microsoft is still facing a big uphill battle. Data released recently from Nielsen found that 51.8 per cent of US smartphone owners currently own an Android device, followed by 34.3 per cent who have an iPhone, and 8.1 percent who have a BlackBerry.

Nielsen found that in recent months, Microsoft's aging Windows Mobile platform actually outpaced the newer Windows Phone at three per cent vs. 1.3 per cent.

According to IDC, however, Windows Phone is on track to overtake iOS by 2016. The analyst firm predicted that Apple iOS will fall to 19 per cent global market share by 2016, while Windows Phone will jump from 5.2 per cent in 2012 to 19.2 per cent in the next few years.

Last month, Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8, which will be released later this year in conjunction with Windows 8. Existing users, however, won't get the upgrade and will instead have to deal with a version '7.8' instead.