Android leaps to No. 2 mobile OS in 2010

Gartner says Android's position is two years earlier than expected

Google's Android will edge out Research In Motion's BlackBerry and Apple's iOS for all of 2010 to become the second-best-selling mobile operating system globally behind Nokia's Symbian, according to the market research firm Gartner.

Gartner today also predicted that by 2014, Android will be neck-and-neck with the Symbian OS, which is used in Nokia mobile phones.

Android's move to second place by the end of this year is almost two years sooner than Gartner predicted just a year ago.

While Android has made quick advances in market share, Gartner said there will be a handful of major mobile OS players for a few years longer. They will include Symbian, Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone 7, because of strong support from wireless carriers and application developers, Gartner said.

The major operating systems will build strong brand awareness with consumer and enterprise customers, it said.

Analysts at the research firm IDC reached a similar conclusion earlier this month, saying the market for smartphones will comfortably support those five OS players over the next five years.

Still, IDC said Android has been the "wild card" in the smartphone race, especially with is inclusion in devices from HTC and Motorola that hit the market in 2009 and early 2010. Phones from Dell, Kyocera, LG Electronics and Samsung added Android as well.

Windows Phone 7 devices have not even shipped but are expected to put that operating system in fifth place through 2013, both Gartner and IDC said. But Windows Phone 7 will drop to sixth place behind MeeGo, a Linux project combining Intel and Nokia software, in 2014, Gartner added.

Gartner said open-source platforms such as Android will dominate more than 60% of the market for smartphones by 2014, while the single-source Apple iOS and BlackBerry will grow at a rate below the market average until then.

Gartner's forecast for all of 2010 calls for Symbian to sell nearly 108 million mobile devices, including smartphones, reaching 264 million in 2014. That would put Symbian at 40% of the market this year, dropping to 30% in 2014.

Android is expected to sell more than 47.4 million devices this year, or a 17.7% share, a number that's expected to explode to 260 million in 2014, with a 29.6% share, Gartner said.

The BlackBerry OS will be in third place just behind Android in 2010, with 46.9 million devices sold, or a 17.5% share. In 2014, the BlackBerry will grow to nearly 103 million devices sold, with 11.7% share.

Apple's iOS will finish fourth in 2010, with 41.4 million devices sold, a 15.4% share. It will grow to 130 million devices sold in 2014, or a nearly 15% market share.

Windows Phone 7 is expected to be in fifth place this year, with 12.6 million units sold and a 4.7% share, growing to 34.4 million sold in 2014, with a 3.9% share.

The overall market for mobile operating systems in 2010 will be 268 million devices sold, growing to 875 million in 2014.

Gartner's numbers include only smartphones and mobile phones, not tablets and netbooks running iOS, Android or other operating systems.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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