Nokia (NOK) and Google (GOOG) are racing to deliver the world's most popular mobile operating systems, and Gartner projects they will be running a dead heat for market leadership in 2014. In a report released Friday, the research firm predicts that Nokia's Symbian platform will remain ahead of Google's Android system by then, but just barely.
More than 264 million people will use Symbian in 2014, up from about 81 million people last year, according to Gartner's forecast, while Android will ascend even more rapidly, jumping from fewer than 7 million users in 2009 to 259 million users in 2014. The research firm expects that these open-source systems will gain popularity faster than single-source systems, such as those used in Apple's (AAPL) iPhone and Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry devices. Gartner projects that the Symbian and Android systems will both boast more than double the users of Apple's iOS system in four years.
Overall, Gartner expects the use of mobile devices equipped with open-source operating systems to more than triple from 2009 to 2014 to 573.8 million devices. That growth, especially among Android users, reflects the expectation that smartphone makers will likely drop the prices of their handheld devices to spur sales. Samsung is among the manufacturers that will start selling budget devices later this year, according to Gartner.