Image: Phil Roeder (Flickr) CC BY 2.0

The mobile operating system scene is now dominated by Apple and Google, according to research firm IDC, with the two now accounting for a combined 82 percent of the market. The other 18 percent is a surprising mixture of has-beens, potential rivals, and unknowns.

“The popularity of Android and iOS stems from a combination of factors that the competition has struggled to keep up with,” said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Phone Technology and Trends program, in a press release. “Neither Android nor iOS were the first to market with some of these features, but the way they made the smartphone experience intuitive and seamless has quickly earned a massive following.”

Symbian, which was at one time an industry leader, slipped to a market share of just 6.8 percent, down from 26 percent last year, due in large part to Nokia’s adoption of Windows Phone. However, researchers note that some die-hard Symbian users still support the product, and that Nokia has thus-far continued to provide support.

And Blackberry, to nobody’s surprise, continued to slip, losing nearly 30 percent of its market share in 2011 to a current 6.4 percent. IDC connected those failures – as well Google and Apple’s respective successes – to developer traction.

“In order for operating system challengers to gain share, their creators and hardware partners need to secure developer loyalty,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program. “This is true because developer intentions or enthusiasm for a particular operating system is typically a leading indicator of hardware sales success.”

But new entrants could be the next big thing. The same researchers predicted, for example, that 2012 will be a “ramp-up” year for Microsoft’s Windows Phone, though it holds only a 2.2 percent market share at present.

Handsets running Linux distributions other than Android and Web OS also command a surprising 2.3 percent market share – a proportion that could rise (depending on methodology) if Ubuntu’s upcoming any-screen operating system that runs simultaneously with Android takes hold.

A separate IDC report released this week found that homebrewed, smartphone-oriented mobile operating systems are on the rise in China, where entrepreneurs hope to establish new mobile revenue streams and “drive stakes into the ground” of the lucrative smartphone market in that nation.

Image: Phil Roeder (Flickr) CC BY 2.0

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