Android really is the new Windows

Android really is the new Windows

Summary: The figures don't lie: Android not only has almost three-quarters of global mobile device sales, but it's outselling PCs too. So the Linux-based OS is the new Windows, not only due to its ubiquity, but because it represents a key aspect of Windows that Microsoft is throwing away: openness.

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Analyst figures can be a dry affair, but sometimes they're so stark that they make the future a bit clearer. That's the case with the mobile sales numbers that came out of Gartner yesterday.

It seems that Android really is the new Windows. By extension, that means Linux — on which Android is based — is currently whipping ten shades out of Microsoft and indeed everyone else. How times change.

android

Gartner's figures cover mobile device sales in the third quarter of this year. Android has gone into overdrive: unit sales more than doubled year-on-year to 122.5 million, and the platform has a market share of 72.4 percent, up from 52.5 percent a year before. That's in mobile devices, not just smartphones.

Apple's iOS is in second place, with quarterly device sales up from 17.3 million to 23.5 million, but its market share down from 15 percent to 13.8 percent. Other mobile OSes are all in the single digits, from RIM's 5.3 percent share down to Microsoft's 2.4 percent.

Now compare this data with what Gartner said a month ago about PC shipments in the same quarter. The grand total for Q3? 87.5 million units. A year-on-year drop of 8.3 percent, since you ask.

In other words, Android device sales have an almost 3:2 ratio compared with PC shipments — and remember that shipments are always greater than sales (unless the product sells out). At this rate, the ratio will be 2:1 within a quarter or two.

Ouch

Caveats apply, of course, but I don't think any are major enough to provide an alternative explanation for this trend. Maybe people delayed PC-buying decisions in anticipation of the Windows 8 launch? Microsoft's upgrade programme cancels out this theory to some degree. Also, this is the back-to-school quarter.

No, this is a real trend. And before you go, "Ah, but smartphones and PCs are not the same thing", well, for many people they are. Think of all those in emerging markets who have never owned a PC and never will. They're increasingly getting their windows on the web — which is the real winner here, in some respects — through handsets and tablets.

Even in the so-called developed world, these devices are usurping the PC for many functions, from web browsing to communications, and even for light document editing.

And Android is winning, on cost and (drum roll) on openness.

Open for business

Why openness? Because there are many app stores out there for Android, and because apps can even be loaded without getting it via a marketplace at all. You and I in the US and Europe may not ever venture outside the confines of Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, but believe me, the alternatives are out there and heavily used, particularly in countries such as China and Russia.

You know what's funny about this? Android is winning, partly because it represents what Windows used to represent: flexibility.

It may seem a bit unfair to say "used to" there, but it's really not. Microsoft has been very clear that starting with Windows 8, it now wants to control its app ecosystem Apple-style.

It's correct in calculating that this will lead to a higher standard of app, but it's wrong if it thinks this will give it any kind of edge against Apple (which offers the same deal but is far further down the road in terms of building an ecosystem). It's also utterly deluded if it thinks most people care about the "uncontrolled" nature of Android.

The desktop won't go away — it's still needed for many types of content creation, and that will stay the case for a long time yet. But the smartphone and the tablet are computers too, and in the overall picture, Android is taking over the world.

Topics: Operating Systems, Android, Google, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Mobility, PCs

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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351 comments
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  • Statistics, statistics and damn lies...

    Mobiles are not PC's, you are not comparing like for like.

    There are other embbeded operating systems that power TV's, routers etc. that have sold in the 100's millions over the years. In fact if you looked at QNX aka BB10 you might find that RIMS comes out on top as QNX has been around for over 30 years.
    pjc158
    • Mobile devices are in fact PC's

      They are definitely computers. They are undeniably personal. They are Personal Computers. PC's have gotten smaller and smaller to the point that you can carry them around with you but they are still PC's and Android is the most successful OS on these mobile PC's. If that conflicts with your world view too bad.
      AnalogJoystick
      • Mobile devices are not computers.

        Though, I am in the market for two laptops. Just wish there was a Nexus 17x11. I would take that over any Win8/Win RT in a heart beat.

        With Android now being able to have multiple windows on screen it out performs Win8 devices.

        Now most will state that a keyboard is required, not so. Nexus 7 with Jelly Bean 4.2 is just amazing. If Google can add multiple windows similar to what Samsung Note offers, but offer more of them. A Windows device becomes irrelevant, add mobile devices are fast approaching the computing capacity and have exceeded windows devices in terms of efficiency and versatility.
        Uralbas
        • Outperforms Windows?

          Have you run any benchmarks to back that up? You go eat your Jelly Beans while I rock my Windows 8 and run circles around that Nexus 7. You must live on life support provided by Google or in a box where they play Googles greatest hits. I will say one thing thanks for the laugh.....
          Rob.sharp
          • Very funny to see comparison between Android and Windows

            So a phone OS is now a better desktop OS? lol.. some drink you have man

            Forget about Windows 8, feature to feature even WinRT beats Android by a huge margin. Just list down the desktop grade tools and utilities built into WinRT, plus multi-user support, 450 million devices support, etc.

            Agree Android is the leader in mobiles, but you do seem to forget 90% desktop is still Windows and is not going to move to Android
            ninjacut
          • Nope

            1. Android has multi-user support.
            2. It is 450 million SOLD devices (like if you have 2 different devices, it can be 100 of one and 350 of another, or 275 and 275 million of each of them) and not 450 different kind devices. And Linux has much wider hardware support than NT, but they (drivers) are not included in Android because you don't attach your printer to your tablet but you print it trough wireless network or you don't need a support for keyboard because it is typical input device what is supported. Microsoft counts every possible device as "supported" or "semi supported" what just possible just to get such a list pulled from anal.

            And if you really want to make a feature to feature list, you end up to have a list where both have over billion features and most people don't actually even care about that.
            Fri13
          • Do you even know what Windows RT is?

            Just sayin'

            Which "desktop grade tools" for WinRT does not have Android versions?

            If anything, WinRT lacks some of the essential tools available for Android
            Wernsey
          • Very funny to see comparison between Android and Windows

            Strange comment and ironic as WinRT is for ARM processors not X86/X64
            Try running a .exe file on a WinRT.They are different animals.
            So you can't compare WinRT to Windows 8 desktop.
            There are going to be some angry people about when they find out theie beloved old programs don't run on WinRT.
            rdbilly
          • windows sucks

            I have burnt my last computer by using windows. I'm tired of all the crashes,viruses,high cost of windows, and high cost of software,never again. I switched to Linux and find it amazing its a cross between windows and android. and a lot of people I know are not even using there pc anymore they just use there tablets and smart phone. cause most people don't care about gaming,and office. they use it for surfing and downloading/streaming movies. so I can see windows going the way of the dodo
            breethwithme
          • Android ***IS*** Windows now: fragmented, glitchy, common lowest ...

            ... denominator platform.

            It is not because Google did its work poorly, it is just integral part of this "openness" approach. Microsoft also never meant Windows becoming mediocre platform, yet this is what happened.

            Android is also new Windows because it is history repeating itself.

            Eric Schmidt was sitting at Apple's board for years, having early access to iPhone OS (almost year before iPhone was on sale in June of 2007) only to radically change Android UI from BlackBerry clone to conceptual iPhone OS clone.

            This betrayal has made Steven Jobs furious, because this was second time already when he has trusted his partner only to be betrayed later.

            Back in 1982 Steven Jobs invited William Gates, Microsoft, to develop software for upcoming Macintosh -- this was for products that was later called "Microsoft Office".

            To solve legal issues that would allow Microsoft design software for window-based GUI, in 1983 Apple licensed specific rights for that -- excluding the rights to use those elements of UI in an OS.

            This licensing agreement had fatal flaw: when Microsoft prepared to release their Windows 1.0 in 1985, Steven Job went furious, and after Jobs was gone from Apple the company tried to sue Microsoft for breaking licensing agreement.

            However, Microsoft claimed that Windows 1.0 was not an OS, it was just OS shell, and hence they had the rights to use the GUI. So by the time Microsoft released their first more of OS Windows -- 3.0 in 1990 -- Apple already lost all the trials and the history was done.

            (And before anyone will respond the usual nonsense about GUI roots, it has to be said clear that back in 1979 Apple paid with its shares for access to specific XeroxParc IP, and Steven Jobs invited original inventors to work at Apple -- to release their dream instead of being ignored in huge but blind behemoth of corporation Xerox was at the time. William Gates neither paid anything to Xerox, nor hired actual GUI inventors.

            Also, Apple make crucial improvements to GUI, without which it would hardly fly, but rather stayed gimmicky thing -- for example, concept of menu bar did not even exist in Xerox version of GUI.)
            DDERSSS
          • Hey, another Apple zealot that is still butthurt about the 1980's

            imagine that.

            And I love my windows 7 desktop a hell of a lot more than the macbook pro I am typing this out on. If I were to assign the term "glitchy" to any of my three computers, it would be to the macbook.
            blarelli
          • Hey, another Windows zealot that is still in butthurt about platform lacks

            @blarelli: "Glitchy" does not mean that every device has to be that way; it is just integral part of this "please all"/"fit all" approach.
            DDERSSS
          • add the pending antitrust

            In a few days we will find out if theEU and US are going after the do no evil guys for antitrust
            DeathDealer35
          • FairSearch is anything but fair...

            ...It is about a bunch of American companies conspiring to bring another American company down abroad.

            Antitrust is about protecting consumers. Consumers don't have to use Google if they don't want to, hence antitrust does not apply in this case. Besides, Google is a free service.

            Groklaw explains it better than I can. http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20121022054044954
            Wernsey
          • lol

            I have no unnatural attraction towards any of my computers. Referring to me as any kind of tech zealot is kind of funny since I do use a little bit of everything (Use mac and windows at home, use mac and windows at work, use iPhones for work until the new blackberries come out and then we'll see what happens). Your response, however, shows that you are indeed butthurt. It's a company dude, not your church. You owe them nothing.

            As for "glitchy" I mean I have a macbook pro that corrupts pdf files and crashes if you try to use Safari. My receptionist uses an iMac that also corrupts pdf files. Not sure if it is because of preview or the OS (using lion), but it has cost me a lot of money in the year she has had that computer.

            And I really don't know what you are referring to when you say the windows platform lacks. What does it lack exactly? Windows 7 is the most stable OS I've used since my Atari ST in the early 1990's, and being windows it has all the dental software available to me that I need (something lacking in the mac ecosystem). Yes, it lacks some of the usability in laptop form that apple computers have, but in my opinion, apple's lack some of the desktop usability that windows computers have.

            Still laughing about how easy it is to rile up you cult type followers of apple though. Good times.
            blarelli
          • The mere fact you made that disclaimer

            says that you're highly biased.
            DWFields
          • He must have gotten to you as well

            or you wouldn't have bothered taking the time to post so much. As far as your issue with Macs corrupting PDF files, never had that happen with any of ours and don't know anybody else that has. If you think it's a Mac thing and not issue with your particular systems or the user then get rid of them, it's not going to matter to anybody else. I do find it questionable though that you claim it's cost you a lot of money yet have done nothing about it. Makes me think either untrue or poor business person.
            non-biased
          • Blah, Blah, blah

            @DDERSSS - More Blah, blah, blah....
            simul8guy
          • Then why are you using it, if you don't like it?

            The oxymoron which implies you're lying is the statement that you're using a Macbook when you consider Windows so much better. I'm not saying you're lying, but your statements certainly imply it.
            DWFields
          • turtleneck propaganda

            @DDERSSS
            "...Eric Schmidt was sitting at Apple's board for years, having early access to iPhone OS (almost year before iPhone was on sale in June of 2007) only to radically change Android UI from BlackBerry clone to conceptual iPhone OS clone..."

            Jobs vowed to go "thermonuclear" on Android. He had at least 5 years to sue the pants off Google if they did copy iOS design. A lot of hot air that guy, not much heat brought onto Google.
            Maybe a grid of icons does not constitute a unique mobile OS and Apple did not have a UI it could claim as its own invention but rather a melding of stolen concepts. Method of theft is not something that can be patented.
            warboat