We like, ok, love poking fun at analysts' long term forecasts given the volatility of the smartphone market. Nobody, neither Gartner nor IDC, predicted the meteoric rise of Android and iOS, thus making their four-year projections (measured to a decimal point) laughable, to say the least. Shorten that timeline to the end of the year, however, and the accuracy of these forecasts tends to increase dramatically.

Gartner just released its smartphone projections that align very closely with the numbers released by IDC a few weeks ago. Both research firms see Nokia hemorrhaging its smartphone dominance in 2011 after announcing plans to adopt the Windows Phone platform. Gartner sees Symbian pulling in a remarkably low 19.2 percent (down from 37.6 percent in 2010 or an impressive 46.9 percent share held back in 2009) regardless of Nokia's insistence that it still has some 150 million Symbian handsets to ship -- IDC, as you'll recall, was a bit more gracious with a 20.9 percent projection for Symbian in 2011. Like IDC, Gartner sees Microsoft making a dramatic comeback just as soon as Nokia can flood its global channels with mid-tier handsets by the end of 2012 with the Windows Phone operating system ultimately rising to the number two spot in global marketshare (Gartner says 19.5 percent to IDC's 20.9 percent) by, eh hem, 2015. Gartner expects the iOS smartphone slice to peak with a 19.4 percent share (to IDC's 15.7 percent) in 2011 before dipping a bit under the strain of an Android juggernaut and Apple's reluctance to sacrifice margins (and profits) for market share. Gartner expects Android to increase the 22.7 market share it enjoyed in 2010 to 38.5 percent in 2011 (compared to the IDC's slightly more aggressive 39.5 percent share) on the way to dominating the competition with a 49.2 percent share in 2012. Bringing up the rear then is RIM with an estimated chunk of just 13.4 percent in 2011 (compared to 16 percent in 2010) with further declines through 2015 even after the BlackBerry maker migrates to QNX in 2012. Ouch.

As for WebOS: sorry HP, you're in the "other" category along with Bada.
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Gartner Says Android to Command Nearly Half of Worldwide Smartphone Operating System Market by Year-End 2012

Egham, UK, April 7, 2011- Worldwide smartphone sales will reach 468 million units in 2011, a 57.7 percent increase from 2010, according to Gartner Inc. By the end of 2011, Android will move to become the most popular operating system (OS) worldwide and will build on its strength to account for 49 percent of the smartphone market by 2012 (see Table 1).
Sales of open OS* devices will account for 26 percent of all mobile handset device sales in 2011, and are expected to surpass the 1 billion mark by 2015, when they will account for 47 percent of the total mobile device market.

"By 2015, 67 percent of all open OS devices will have an average selling price of $300 or below, proving that smartphones have been finally truly democratized," said Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner.

"As vendors delivering Android-based devices continue to fight for market share, price will decrease to further benefit consumers", Ms. Cozza said. "Android's position at the high end of the market will remain strong, but its greatest volume opportunity in the longer term will be in the mid- to low-cost smartphones, above all in emerging markets."

Gartner predicts that Apple's iOS will remain the second biggest platform worldwide through 2014 despite its share deceasing slightly after 2011. This reflects Gartner's underlying assumption that Apple will be interested in maintaining margins rather than pursuing market share by changing its pricing strategy. This will continue to limit adoption in emerging regions. iOS share will peak in 2011, with volume growth well above the market average. This is driven by increased channel reach in key mature markets like the U.S. and Western Europe.

Research In Motion's share over the forecast period will decline, reflecting the stronger competitive environment in the consumer market, as well as increased competition in the business sector. Gartner has factored in RIM's migration from BlackBerry OS to QNX which is expected in 2012. Analysts said this transition makes sense because RIM can create a consistent experience going from smartphones to tablets with a single developer community and - given that QNX as a platform brings more advanced features than the classic BlackBerry OS - it can enable more competitive smartphone products.

Gartner predicts that Nokia will push Windows Phone well into the mid-tier of its portfolio by the end of 2012, driving the platform to be the third largest in the worldwide ranking by 2013. Gartner has revised its forecast of Windows Phone's market share upward, solely by virtue of Microsoft's alliance with Nokia. Although this is an honorable performance it is considerably less than what Symbian had achieve in the past underlying the upward battle that Nokia has to face.

Gartner analysts said new device types will widen ecosystems. "The growth in sales of media tablets expected in 2011 and future years will widen the ecosystems that open OS communications devices have created. This will, by and large, function more as a driver than an inhibitor for sales of open OS devices," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.

"Consumers who already own an open OS communications device will be drawn to media tablets and more often than not, to media tablets that share the same OS as their smartphone," Ms. Milanesi said. "This allows consumers to be able to share the same experience across devices as well as apps, settings or game scores. At the same time, tablet users who don't own a smartphone could be prompted to adopt one to be able to share the experience they have on their tablets."

Note *: An open OS makes a software developer kit (SDK) available to developers, who can use native application programming interfaces (APIs) to write applications. The OS can be supported by a sole vendor or multiple vendors. It can be, but does not have to be, open source. Examples are BlackBerry OS, iOS, Symbian, Android, Windows Phone, Linux, Limo Foundation, WebOS and bada.

Gartner's detailed forecast is available in the report "Forecast: Mobile Communications Devices by Open Operating System, Worldwide, 2008-2015." The report is available on Gartner's website at http://www.gartner.com/resId=1619615.

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Gartner: Android grabbing over 38 percent of smartphone market in 2011 on Symbian's demise