Critics are calling it the “end of an era” and “a milestone in the technology sector”. In March this year, Android overtook Microsoft to become the leading operating system for internet usage. This remarkable feat shows how much global online behavior has changed and how far Microsoft has fallen in the last five years. The Android vs Microsoft battle is not a new one but it most certainly has taken a turn. As recently as March 2012, Microsoft owned over 80 percent of the operating system market share worldwide. That has been slashed to just 37.91 percent. And with Android sitting pretty at 37.93 and rising, it looks like the gig is up for the mobile Microsoft machine. We take a closer look at what’s brought this about and why it matters.
StatCounter, a web analytics company, says that this is a tipping point for Android but has been coming for some time. The company, which initially published its findings on Android vs Microsoft market share, based its findings on 2.5 million websites that generate more than 15 billion monthly page views. They tracked the convergence of usage for the two operating systems over time and say that it highlights Microsoft’s failure to challenge with its ill-fated Windows Phone.
Windows is still the number one global operating system on desktops, with 84 percent internet usage share in March this year. So what’s happened? Well, we’ve changed how we consume information. Five years ago, desktops were the more popular device on which to surf the internet. But, when you factor in the massive number of smartphones that are currently in use, a global push towards always-on, mobile-first communication and the impact of Asia on the global market, a completely different picture emerges. Microsoft was stuck in the desktop era when in reality, the battlefield moved to mobile. Yet the Android vs Microsoft war rages on.
Interestingly, Apple users made the switch far earlier. During March 2017, Apple’s mobile users (iOS) were close to three times more active on the internet than users of its desktop machines (OSX). But it’s not enough. A recent survey found that iOS accounted for just over 25 billion of the 90 billion app downloads made in 2016. Android took the remainder. Curiously though, iOS apps still brought in more money for Apple than Android’s apps did for Google. However, if this trend continues, this looks set to change as well.
While the battle between Microsoft and Android is still fairly even in Western markets, like the US and UK, the influx of new internet users from Asia has tipped the scales in favor of Android. A StatCounter report published last week showed how mobile accounts for the lion’s share of internet usage in countries like India (79 percent), Indonesia (72 percent) and China (57 percent). The massive populations these countries have, mean that we’re talking about hundreds of millions of devices with Android operating systems.
The short answer: In the mobile arena? No. It’ll be incredibly difficult for Microsoft to make inroads into Android’s mobile market share. And, given their track record in mobile, it’s highly unlikely that they do. Instead, they may choose to exert efforts in another sector. Technology trends like augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and Continuum (a product that aims to replace a desktop or smartphone with a single Microsoft-enabled phone) may be where Microsoft’s future lies. If they act quickly, they could reign supreme once more.
Frankly, the platform that Android now has could spell disaster for Microsoft. It could be just the launchpad that Android needs to catapult them into pole position in other technologies. Perhaps 2017 will be remembered as the year Android came of age. Whatever happens, the Android vs Microsoft tussle is set to continue for a few years yet. If you’d like to learn more about this and other technology trends, read our recent article. It outlines 5 trends that are defining 2017.