At the recent Google I/O 2010 event, Google Inc. made a series of compelling announcements related to its Android operating system: More than 60 Android smart phone models are now available, collectively selling 100,000 units a day, and Android phones are available from 21 OEMs in 48 countries under 59 wireless carriers. Furthermore, Google states that Android phones are second in smart phone sales but ?rst in per-use web and app usage in the United States, and that over 50,000 apps can be found in the Android Market software store.
Google also revealed that 1 billion miles have been navigated via Google Maps Navigation users and that mobile searches grew fivefold from 2008 to 2010.
These details point to a persuasive narrative that only has just begun: Android, long thought to have been languishing in development hell, not only has arrived but also is becoming a genuine force to reckon with.
At the conference, Google demonstrated more than 20 new features of Froyo, the new and upgraded Android OS 2.2 that. iSuppli believes is one of the most user-friendly, feature-rich and high-performance platforms for smart phone end users and app developers.
Froyo improves greatly on the original Android 1.0, a simple operating system for smart phones launched on the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) in October 2008. Android 1.0 was short on features and functionality early on, compared to many other brands available on the market particularly when compared to the iPhone from Apple Inc. However, Google’s Android operating system has evolved rapidly since then, and there is no doubt that Google’s engineers have advanced the Android platform faster than what its competitors have done on their end during the last 18 months.
Overtaking the iPhone
As the Android OS matures, the criticism on the operating system’s fragmentation issues is likely to fade away, and device manufacturers and third-party app developers will be able to work on more stabilized platforms. In the meantime, because the iPhone has garnered a daunting lead in apps, Apple will remain a strong competitor against Android. In the long term, however, Android will overtake iPhone sales volumes because of Android’s partnerships with many device manufacturers.
True, Apple now sells the iPhone via 151 carriers in 88 countries, but sales remain exclusive in two of the phone’s biggest wireless markets—in the United States under AT&T, and in Germany under T-Mobile. If Verizon also is able to sell the iPhone, iSuppli believes Android will not outsell the iPhone in the United States for several more years.
Apple’s business model for the iPhone is similar to the business model for the Macintosh, but with very different outcomes. While the Macintosh received tremendous attention in 1984, its success came very slow due to a variety of factors. In contrast, the iPhone was a runaway success from day one. The Internet accounts for the differing outcomes, allowing Apple to succeed spectacularly with the iPhone even if it had employed a similar strategy to the one used for the Macintosh with less stellar results.
On the other hand is Android: While it follows the Windows PC business model, it’s doing so with an open source platform.
All told, Android is likely to be the Windows PC equivalent in the smart phone market, and the operating system is well-positioned to soon become the leading smart phone platform in the United States even as it competes in a market dominated by at least three strong platforms. Will Android eventually overtake Nokia Corp.’s Symbian for the worldwide lead? Time will tell.