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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc's Android software will become the world's second most popular operating system for cell phones this year, leapfrogging rival offerings from Microsoft Corp, Research in Motion and Apple Inc, according to a new report.
By 2014 Android will account for nearly 30 percent of all cell phone operating system sales, according to research firm Gartner, putting it in position to challenge Nokia Corp's Symbian software, which has reigned as the top mobile operating system for years.
Symbian will have a 30.2 percent share of the global market in 2014, according to Gartner, compared to Android's 29.6 percent.
Gartner said it expects a variety of less-expensive Android devices shipping in the second half of 2010 to boost Android's growth, allowing Android to grab the No. 2 worldwide rank nearly two years sooner than the firm had initially expected.
The market for mobile phone software has become a prime battleground for technology companies, as consumers increasingly use their phones to access the Internet, listen to digital music and play video games.
Apple jump-started the market for high-end smartphones with the launch of its iPhone in 2007.
For Google, the world's No. 1 Internet search engine, making the transition to mobile phones is key as it seeks to maintain and expand its nearly $24 billion online advertising business.
Google's Android software, which it offers free to cell phone vendors, has experienced dramatic growth since coming to market two years ago. More than 200,000 Android phones, from companies including Motorola Inc, HTC Corp and Samsung Electronics, are sold every day, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said recently.
Android became the No. 1 operating system for U.S. smartphones in the second quarter, according to a report last month by industry tracker NPD.
Nokia's Symbian operating system has maintained the No. 1 spot worldwide, thanks to the company's broad distribution of its handsets. But Nokia has struggled to deliver a high-end smartphone to compete with the likes of the Apple iPhone or devices based on Google's Android.
On Friday, Nokia announced that Microsoft's Stephen Elop would replace Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo as chief executive in a bid to revive the Finish handset company's fortunes. [nLDE68903W]
Gartner projected that Apple's iOS software, which is only available on Apple's iPhone, will add nearly 3 percentage points of market share to achieve a 17.1 percent slice of the global market by 2011, but will slip back to a 14.9 percent share in 2014.
Blackberry-maker Research in Motion will see its share fall from 19.9 percent in 2009 to 11.7 percent in 2014, Gartner said, while Microsoft's Windows Phone software will decline to 3.9 percent in 2014 from 8.7 percent in 2009.
Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Richard Chang