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Google - but not Android phone makers - triumphant

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Come 2015 and Microsoft will own more of the smartphone OS market than Apple does.

Redmond will have 19.5 per cent of the market, Cupertino just 17.2 per cent. The folk up in Canada - Research in Motion, if you have to ask - will have 11.1 per cent.

So says market watcher Gartner, just one of a number of such firms to forecast big growth for Android over the next four years. Google's OS will be running on 48.8 per cent of smartphones in 2015.

Android lovers will see that as a triumphant validation of their favourite platform, but Gartner's numbers show that none of its major rivals doing particularly badly.

Such is the extent to which the smartphone market will grow over the coming years, Apple will sell more than four times as many iPhones in 2015 is it did in 2010. Rim's sales will grow by a factor of 2.6 over the same period - Microsoft's a staggering 17.5 times.

Android units will be up eightfold.

Symbian, by contrast, will be all but dead. Other OSes, such as HP's WebOS and Samsung's Bada, will barely trouble the scorer.

Unfortunately, many will be low-end, low-margin models, a fair few of them sold into emerging markets. That will mean Android-phone vendors will sell lots of handsets, but make far less money per phone than Apple and RIM do. And there are lot more of them competing with each other than there are rivals using other operating systems.

Microsoft's growth will come largely from Nokia, and it too has a history of aiming for the middle rather than the upper end of the market.

"By 2015, 67 per cent of all open OS devices will have an average selling price of $300 or below," Gartner said.

Of course, Apple, RIM and Nokia may all make greater play for the bottom end of the smartphone market over the coming years, and that's bound to hinder Android's growth, most forecasts for which are predicated on those three remaining focused on the mid-range and high-ends of the market.

Gartner's forecast does show that the smartphone market will not be a re-run of the old Apple vs Wintel fight, with one platform dominating massively. Even through 2015, there will still be a lot for Apple, RIM and Microsoft/Nokia to play for. ®

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