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) -- For the second time in two weeks,


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has been projected to fill the No. 2 smartphone OS spot in by 2015.

Gartner released its smartphone operating system


Thursday calling for


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Android software account for nearly half of the worldwide phone market by the end of next year.

Given the rapid growth of the Android movement and the number of phone makers set to sell handsets equipped with the OS in all corners of the world, the prediction doesn't seem too far-fetched. But Gartner also forecasts that Microsoft's Windows software will surpass sales of

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Gartner's prediction repeats a similar conclusion drawn by rival IDC last week. Both market research shops see


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worldwide phone operations as the key to Microsoft's otherwise unlikely rise.

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 software, which was launched in October, has not exactly made a great impact on the market. Phone buyers increasingly pick Apple iPhones and Google Android phones, and outfits like RIM are slipping in the popularity contest. Microsoft phones have been a distant fourth or fifth player in the market so far.

Nokia will give Microsoft a big lift, but Nokia won't be the dominant phone player it once was, said Gartner.

The support of Nokia will be substantial for Microsoft, but not nearly as significant as Nokia's past ability to make its Symbian software the most popular worldwide in 2010, said Gartner. The research shop added that this highlights "the upward battle that Nokia has to face."

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.>To contact this writer, click here: Scott Moritz, or email: follow Scott on Twitter, go to>To send a tip, email: