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Android set to topple Windows as most popular operating system

March 11, 2017

The global market share of the Android operating system is threatening to overtake Windows!—StatsCounter

According to the website StatsCounter, Google’s Android operating system is less than two percentage points away from dethroning Microsoft Windows as the world’s most popular operating system.

Call it the revenge of Linux or the rise of the so-call developing world, either way the moment when Android does finally surpass Windows will be the end of an era and a watershed moment in the ongoing shift of global momentum away from North America and Western Europe.

Microsoft’s monopoly is going, going—almost gone

Looking at worldwide market share as of February 2017, Microsoft Windows still leads all operating systems with 38.59 percent; however Google’s Linux-based Android had a share of 37.42 percent—only 1.17 percent behind.

Apple’s two operating systems—iOS and OS X—are a distant third and fourth, with 12.99 percent and 5.24 percent respectively and GNU Linux is last with a 0.91 percent share.

It should be said that StatsCounter’s results are based entirely on web traffic recorded by 2.5 million sites spread around the world. The metrics are those which are automatically gleaned by website servers about the computer behind a page view.

However, that shouldn’t prejudice a person against these results; these days, to use a computer is to use the Internet and vice versa.

Unpacking the numbers—the triumph of Linux and cheapness

What we are seeing here is the ultimate result of Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 10 years ago. But  the seismic shift to mobile computing triggered by the iPhone has only snowballed into the avalanche which now threatens to bury Microsoft because—irony of ironies—Google’s Android has done for mobile hardware makers what Microsoft Windows earlier did for desktop hardware makers.

Software and hardware are both difficult to do right, but each in different ways and operating system software is arguably harder still because it mediates the computer user’s complete experience—both with the software which runs under it as well as the hardware that it runs on top of.

For much of the last 30 years the personal computer industry has, as a rule, been divided into specialized hardware companies and software companies, with Apple being the exception which proves the rule.

The Microsoft Windows operating system has, during this time, allowed a host of hardware makers, like HP, Lenovo and Dell, to stick to what they know best—making hardware—basically, PC clones. Android appeared shortly after the release of the iPhone and likewise allowed a lot of hardware makers, like Samsung, LG, and Huawei to rapidly churn out a lot of iPhone clones.

Of course, industries evolve and Microsoft is now designing some great hardware, Samsung has developed its own Android-like operating system called Tizen and Apple no longer has any monopoly on either innovation or build quality.

The fact remains though that what Google Android is threatening to do to Microsoft Windows is virtually a replay of what Microsoft did to Apple in the 1990s.

And if seeing Microsoft hoisted on its own petard isn’t enough there is the additional irony that Android is a version of Linux, the open source operating system/movement which Microsoft spent 20 years demonizing and—having been unable to beat it—is now trying to join.

Combine the market share of Android Linux and Linux proper, together with the unbroken-out fraction of Chrome OS, which powers Google Chromebooks—and is also Linux—and what we see is that Linux, once Microsoft’s bête noire, could be less than a percentage point away from replacing Windows as the most popular operating system in the world.

I don’t know about you but I think it was worth getting out of bed this morning just to learn this.

More less expensive choices are helping killing Windows

The U.S. operating system shares are Windows: 39.64, iOS: 27.36%, Android: 18.72%, OS X: 10.77% and Chrome OS: 1.7.—StatsCounter

Breaking down StatsCounter’s operating market share results by region shows another angle—that the respective rise and fall of Android and Windows is clearly being driven by the so-called “developing world“.

Microsoft Windows and Apple’s iOS and OS X enjoy their very best numbers in the most industrialized regions of the world.

In the United States, Microsoft leads with 39.64 percent, followed  by iOS at a healthy 27.36, then Android at 17.82 percent, OS X at 10.77 percent, Chrome OS at 1.79 percent and finally Linux with 0.81 percent.

In Europe, it’s Windows: 51.81%, Android: 23.54%, iOS: 13.83%, OS X: 7.71% and Linux: 1.24%.—StatsCounter

In Canada, Microsoft leads with 45.44 percent, followed by iOS at 25.31 percent, then Android at 14.16 percent, OS X at 11.81 percent and finally, Blackberry OS has a 0.98 percent share.

In the UK, it’s Windows: 41.02 percent, iOS: 26.73 percent, Android: 18.98 percent, OS X: 9.92 percent and Linux: 0.71 percent.

Where the developing taste for internet is mobilized

In Asia Googles’ Android is the Microsoft Windows of operating systems and Windows…isn’t.—StatsCounter

Internet usage in Asia, Africa and India is growing by leaps and bounds but it’s doing so largely on inexpensive mobile handsets and tablets, not on desktop computers or expensive iPhones and iPads. In these regions not only is Android already the top operating system by a wide margin but Nokia operating systems still have a significant presence.

In Asia, Android is in the lead with a commanding 51.83 percent, followed not too closely by Windows at 29.81 percent. iOS has 8.85 percent while “Unknown”, with 3.94 percent, trounces OS X’s tiny 1.76 percent share–which is not even a full percentage point ahead of Nokia’s 1.46 percent.

Android has a bigger market share in India than every other operating system combined.—StatsCounter

In Africa, Android leads with 46.66 percent, followed respectfully by Windows at 33.66 percent. Unknown, at 7.13 percent, has more share than iOS and OS X combined, at 3.37 percent and 2.29 percent respectively. Nokia’s Symbian Series 40 operating system still commands 2.2 percent!

Meanwhile in India, Android’s usage share is a staggering 61.97 percent, which leaves everything else in the dust. Windows is far behind with an anemic 19.4 percent and Nokia Unknown enjoys 3.53 percent—well ahead of iOS’ wee 2.12 percent, which is followed by Nokia’s Series 40 at 1.21 percent.

The sun is finally setting on Microsoft Windows?

A June 2016 report by Cisco has especially bad news for Microsoft—smartphones will be the top Internet consumption tool in only three years.

Cisco predicts that the PC’s share of Internet traffic will decline from 53 percent in 2015 to 29 percent in 2020, while smartphone’s share of traffic will grow from 8 percent in 2015 to 30 percent in 2020, surpassing the desktop computer.

This has a lot to do with the fact that, according to Cisco, Internet traffic is currently growing fastest in the Middle East and Africa, as well as in Asia Pacific—all areas where the growth in Internet usage is on mobile devices, rather than desktop computers and where, consequently, Windows uptake trails far behind Android.

Cisco expects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the Middle East and Africa of 41 percent between 2015 and 2020, reaching 10.9 EB (exabytes) per month.

Internet traffic is seeing the second highest growth rate in Asia Pacific and Cisco predicts a CAGR there of 22 percent, with volume reaching 67.8 EB per month by 2020.

By comparison, 2020 expectations are only 28.0 EB per month for Western Europe and 59.1 EB per month for North America.

Androids are not Apples but they are Jobs to the core

When all is said and done, in spite of all the other tangible factors that I can point to, I still want to credit Steve Jobs with finally bringing Microsoft Windows to heel and that’s not just sentiment speaking.

The fact is, every one of the billion-plus affordable, generic-looking and well-functioning Android smartphones that is eating away at Microsoft’s market share is fulfilling the fundamental vision behind the iPhone and the iPad, not to mention the 1984 Macintosh and the 1977 Apple II.

The through-line and inspiration of Steve Jobs’ entire career was the computer-as-appliance—as minimally and simply designed and as easy to use as a toaster or a TV set. I would argue that Jobs rarely deviated any farther from this ultimate goal than technological limitations dictated.

The iPhone and iPad were Steve Jobs’ last two great computing devices and as close as time would allow him to come to making computers-as-toasters.

Jobs clearly understood toasters and that what sells them is not advertising the fiddly inner workings but total functionality and a fitting design and he understood that if you can sell a person one toaster you can sell them years-worth of sliced bread.

Hence the reductionist design of the iPhone and iPad and the iOS operating system that users take for granted because it’s free and it just works and the iTunes store that sells all the sliced bread that a person could ever want.

If computers were cars then Microsoft’s business model for Windows was akin to convincing car owners to buy a whole new engine every few years; the iPhone/iPod business model was to give them the engine and free servicing to boot and simply sell them gas.

Microsoft didn’t really understand how Apple’s iPhone and iPad undermined the Windows business model until it was too late but Google clearly understood from the get go.

Android smartphones and tablets are (as much as the iPhone and iPad) the computing appliances that Steve Jobs always dreamed of and in their inexpensive and functional ubiquity they have become the threat that Microsoft never dreamed of. Click the images to enlarge them.

3 Comments
  1. That’s not too bad for consumers. But for developers I have a feeling that PC software and hardware are about to get a lot more expensive. Android/iOS are still too crippled compared to Windows.

    • We see Microsoft bending over backwards to accommodate developers–not the least by incorporating true command line Linux in Windows 10. In fact, I worry quite a bit worry for desktop Linux, which is potentially going to get squeezed from both sides.

      I see no reason why Windows cannot continue to subsume Linux functionality and I see Google Chrome OS’ ability to install Android apps from the Google Play store as being a further blow to GNU Linux, as well as killing the hopes of various desktop Android projects, such as Android X86, Jide’s Remix OS and Phoenix OS.

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