Android: Number one with a bullet

Android is well on its way to being the most popular end-user operating system of all.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When Gartner dealt its tarot cards to read the future of end-user computing devices it saw the market growing by 4.2 percent. The best they can say of the Windows-dominated PC market is that it's flat-lined. So, who's winning in the overall end-user market? It's Android, and no one else is even close.

Android -- not Windows, not an Apple operating system -- beats all other end-user operating systems by a long shot.

Consider what Gartner said in 2013: Android devices out-shipped Windows devices by more than two-to-one.

It gets worse for Windows from there.

In 2014, Gartner predicts that Android will out-sale Windows by three-and-a-half to one. Come 2015, Gartner sees Android running ahead of Windows by 3.67-to-one. No wonder Microsoft seems to be turning to Android for its own smartphones, such as the recently announced Nokia X2.

This is what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had to say Thursday in the all-Microsoft hands memo: "At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world." As ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley observed, when Nadella is talking platforms, he doesn't mean just Windows or even Windows first. "It means building software and services that run on the most important mobile operating systems."

The most important mobile operating system is Android. In fact, at its current growth rate, Android seems on its way to being the most popular end-user operating system of all.

You may not consider smartphones and tablets to be serious work platforms, but many of your colleagues do. In addition, while Gartner may not believe in the Chromebook, Stephanie Van Vactor, a research analyst at ABI Research said, "3.3 million Chromebooks sales is what we predict for year 2014." That's nothing to sneeze at.

In addition, IDC's Jay Chou, a senior research analyst in the Worldwide PC Trackers division, which sees a better future ahead in 2014 for PCs than Gartner, noted that: "One encouraging [PC sales] factor was a good intake of lower-end systems, including Chromebooks, which coincides with the recent slowing in tablet growth."

More telling still for the future of end-user computing is that Google is bringing Chrome OS and Android together. That's a powerful combination. 

Add this to AMD, Asus, Intel, HP, and Lenovo all planning on shipping Android PCs in 2014, and it looks very much like Android, not Windows, will soon be the most important end-user operating system of all.

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