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Gartner struck an unrelenting ego blow to Microsoft’s mobile team this week when it released its latest predictions for the mobile operating system market. The top-tier analyst firm forecasted that Microsoft’s soon to be released Windows Phone Series would rank sixth in market share behind Linux-based OS MeeGo by 2014.

On the upside for other OS providers, Google gets another boost of confidence from Gartner  which said Android  will become the number two mobile OS by 2010 and that Andorid and Symbian will duke it out for the top slot by 2014. Gartner says that Android and Symbian will hold a combined market share of almost 60 percent by 2014.

Gartner predicts that Symbian will lose share, but still remain number one and eventually reach a similar level with Android in 2014. Symbian is pushed by Nokia which has massive volume and can appeal to a larger group of users due to its price point. Numbers released by Gartner, though, show that as more adoption occurs, Android share will steadily climb about 12 points from this year through 2014.  

As for the other OS players, most notably Apple and RIM, Gartner predicts the two companies have reached their highest share numbers, both facing either a loss or a leveling off although shipment numbers will continue to climb.  

Apple’s iOS share, for example, will grow approximately 2 points next year, and then by 2014 will have lost about 3 points even though adoption increases make the forecasted number of devices shipped double. RIM’s market share will continue its decline that began this year, losing significant market share over the next four years. In 2009, RIM held almost 20 percent of the market, and Gartner predicts by 2014, RIM will lose about 8 to 9 percent of its ultimate high and settle in around 11.7 percent share.

“The worldwide mobile OS market is dominated by four players: Symbian, Android, Research in Motion and iOS,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a statement. “Launches of updated operating systems — such as Apple iOS 4, BlackBerry OS 6, Symbian 3 and Symbian 4, and Windows Phone 7 — will help maintain strong growth in smartphones in the second half of 2010 and in 2011 and spur innovation. However, we believe that market share in the OS space will consolidate around a few key OS providers that have the most support from CSPs and developers and strong brand awareness with consumer and enterprise customers.”

One of those OS providers, obviously, is Google. So, what’s driving Android’s massive growth and Gartner’s confidence in its bright future? It’s the open-source revolution with Symbian and Google at the top of the wave, indicates the analyst firm, and it doesn’t hurt that Google has won over device manufacturers banking on releasing lower-cost smartphones to target the mass market like Nokia did with Symbian. Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG and Motorola are on board to unveil less-pricey Android devices this year, and that will give Android top billing as the most adopted OS in North America by the end of this year.