Symbian and Android to Lead Mobile OS Market in 2012

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Gartner released a slightly revised outlook for the 2012 mobile operating system market ahead of the upcoming Gartner ITExpo in Orlando next week. The new prediction still has Symbian as the top OS, followed by Android, but the next three spots have experience a little shake up since the initial report a week ago.

The prediction for the iPhone market share is pretty much the same, but changes to the estimate for Blackberry move it to third place while iPhone falls to fourth. A shift in confidence regarding the future of Windows Mobile dropped the operating system from fourth place to fifth- predicting a meager 9 percent share for Microsoft in 2012.

Nokia is the current leader in the smart phone market, holding 45 percent of the total market. The market for smart phone devices is a different metric than the market for mobile device operating systems, but the Symbian OS and Nokia devices are virtually synonymous.

Gartner's confidence in Nokia's continued market dominance is probably related, at least in part, to the strategic partnership Nokia formed with Microsoft to be able to deliver Office Mobile, as well as integration with other Microsoft technologies, on Symbian-based mobile devices. The alliance adds significant value to Nokia's mobile devices and makes Nokia a much stronger competitor against Blackberry.

The dark horse in this race seems to be Android. Google's open source mobile operating system has emerged as a tour de force. T-Mobile has expanded its Android portfolio with the Motorola Cliq and Samsung Behold II, and Android has expanded its sphere of influence to Sprint and Verizon as well. In addition, the recent release of the Android 1.6 SDK (a.k.a. ‘Donut') has led many developers to embrace the mobile OS platform.

The IPhone OS is predicted to take fourth place, behind Symbian, Android, and Blackberry. Apple's mobile device and accompanying operating system are wildly popular and very successful, however the proprietary, closed platform and exclusivity arrangement with AT&T limit its market potential. Analysts have suggested that Apple could double iPhone sales if it drops the AT&T exclusivity, but for now the fate of Apple and AT&T seem intertwined.

When Gartner first reported its 2012 prediction a week ago, Windows Mobile was in third place with an estimated 12.8 percent of the market. This week Gartner has Windows Mobile in fifth place with only 9 percent. The shift in confidence is a response to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer publicly expressing disappointment in the Windows Mobile development team, and some of the initial reviews of the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS.

The report is simply an opinion. You can take the Gartner prognostications with a grain of salt except for two things: 1) Gartner does this for a living so it ought to be relatively accurate in predicting market trends, and 2) Gartner reports can become self-fulfilling prophecies in effect.

Device manufacturers and application developers may base development decisions on Gartner's predictions of which mobile OS's will have the most market share, making those platforms more widely available and providing a richer user experience. Decisions based on the Gartner predictions can have a domino effect which leads to the predictions being ultimately correct.

I am not Gartner, but I'll give you my two cents. By 2012 I believe that Android will surpass Symbian for the number one slot, and I believe that Windows Mobile will make a rebound and land in fourth, or maybe even third place. Check back with me in three years so we can compare notes.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at

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