Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) isn't alone in thinking that Windows Phone 7 can surpass iOS.

Citing "conservative" forecasts from market researchers Gartner and IDC, Windows Phone marketing head Achim Berg expects Windows Phone to claim more than 20% of the smartphone market by 2015. With Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) most recent market share pegged at 18.2% by Gartner last month, scoring a 20% share would be a victory over Cupertino. The same Gartner report showed Windows Phone with a mere 1.6% share last quarter.

It's a bold goal, but I don't see it happening. Apple would have to fail to garner more market share while Microsoft would need to grab multiples of its current position. It's certainly possible, although doubtful. In fact, it's more possible now than ever before.

The smartphone gods have decided to give Mr. Softy a break, and Windows Phone's prospects have substantially improved in recent weeks despite being late to the party. It must be from all the mobile users sacrificed via Windows Mobile 6 over the years. The operating system itself has some catching up to do, but its next iteration, Mango, makes significant progress in several key departments, like multitasking.

Partnering with Nokia (NYSE: NOK) back in February definitely gives Microsoft opportunities. Despite Nokia rapidly losing market share, according to Gartner it still ranks top dog at 22.8% when ranked by overall vendor shipments. Keep in mind that Nokia is getting billions of dollars from Microsoft to help develop and market the platform.

It will be interesting to see if other OEMs, like Samsung and LG, ask for similar treatment as they consider diversifying their offerings away from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android. Taiwanese manufacturer HTC just revealed two new phones running Mango, adding to its current repertoire of six.

I'm one of the first people to tell you that Windows Phone is looking more and more like a viable smartphone platform. I just don't think it will ever surpass iOS or Android. However, I do think the stage is set for it to overtake Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) and settle in third place.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.