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Apple challenging Nokia as top smartphone vendor

Data Source: IDC (GeekWire chart)

Much is made these days about the smartphone operating system wars, as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android fight for position against a field of competitors. But the trends in smartphone hardware are just as interesting, if not more so, based on the latest market research.

And the big story in that area right now is Apple vs. Nokia, as demonstrated by the chart above — which GeekWire compiled by comparing IDC’s latest market research, released this week, vs. historical data from the firm. The iPhone maker (represented by the orange bar), surpassed RIM (yellow) a year ago and now appears to be on its way to seriously rivaling Nokia (blue), if current trends continue.

But the big wild card is the partnership that Microsoft and Nokia sealed recently. If the companies can make Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 a success on Nokia devices, IDC predicted earlier this year that Windows Phone would surpass Apple’ iPhone in smartphone OS market share by 2015. Research firm Gartner followed up with a similar prediction. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Whether or not that happens is still an open question. In the meantime, in the hardware horse race, Apple is making a big move down the back stretch.

Todd Bishop of GeekWire can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

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