Android Poised To Take Runner-Up Phone Slot by 2013

IDC Forecast Predicts 68.0 Million Android Phones by 2013

Analysts at IDC released their dryly named Worldwide Mobile OS 2009-2013 Forecast and Analysis report today, which should be getting great reads in Google's Mountain View, CA headquarters.

In the report, IDC's crystal ball is figuring that from the meager beginnings of 690,000 Android units in 2008, there should be 68 million Android-based devices on the market by 2013, putting in second place on the mobile device market. That's a compound annual growth rate of 150.4 percent, for those of you keeping score at home.

Such stunning growth has got to be welcome news for the search engine/mobile device maker, even if the same report estimates that Symbian will still hold the number-one spot in 2013, mostly due, according to IDC's press release, to Nokia's strong global presence.

Hold on, you might ask, what about all those other pretty mobile operating systems? How does this OS-come-lately surpass the likes of Blackberry, webOS, Linux, Apple, and Windows Mobile? While news from IDC doesn't specify the fate of Blackberry and Windows Mobile, it would be more than fair to guess that Blackberry has been taking (and will continue to take) a beating from Apple's iPhone and the smaller number of apps, compared to iPhone and even now, Android.

As for Windows Mobile, it's been virtually invisible on the mobile scene, having been distinctly absent from the CES show in Vegas earlier this month. There's been some buzz lately around Windows Mobile 7, but mostly with Microsoft's Robbie Bach (President, Entertainment & Devices Division) talking smack about Android at CES rather than promote WM7. Maybe it's my Midwestern upbringing showing, but if you have to trash talk a competitor before your product is even near launch, that strikes me as being less-than-confident about your work.

Curiously, IDC did say that while Palm's webOS would continue to have growth, it would be limited by a lack of deployment. 

Even more curiously, IDC held forth this gem: "Shipments of Linux-powered devices will trend down due to greater emphasis on the Android platform but will not disappear entirely as some vendors will continue to support it."

Er, what?

The glaring error in this statement is, of course, that Android is Linux. To treat it like another operating system is highly inaccurate. I believe what IDC meant to call out was not "Linux" but rather "other Linux distributions" or "Linux distributions based on Moblin." Separating Android from Linux may make sense from a commercial standpoint, since there is this notion that Google is only interested in what happens to Android, so the rest of Linux will suffer from Android's success.

That's classic old-school thinking, and it's just plain wrong.  As I explained on a couple of weeks ago:

"While it is true that ultimately Google is interested in its bottom line (and as a public company, it has to be), you could also make the same case for Intel's involvement in Moblin, or Red Hat's work with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or Novell's efforts with SUSE Enterprise Linux... and on and on. But to date, no commercial Linux success has proven detrimental to Linux as a whole.

"The truth is that any commercial involvement with Linux, as long as that involvement is done with good free/open source citizenship, is beneficial for Linux, regardless of whether it's called "Linux." Success brings users, developers, and hopefully revenue for more development, which should bring more success..."

The real winner in this is not the result of a semantic word game about what's Linux.  Instead, it's open source. Google has clearly tapped into the power of the open source community in ways other mobile vendors haven't been able to do, and the results are clearly evident in present sales and development, and in analysts' reports like this one.

I would even be willing to venture that Android will become even more popular than this IDC report predicts, if only because Google will continue to flex its open-source muscle and build an even stronger application ecosystem than any of its competitors. If that happens, then Android will really explode, because there is a lot of truth in the saying "the mobile OS with the best apps wins."

Even if I just started saying it. 

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