Android to surpass Windows as top OS by 2016, report says

The mad dash to mobile computing, with people and organizations adopting smart phones and tablets at an increasing rate, will make the Android operating system the most common OS in the world, according to a forecast by IDC.

If the projection holds, Windows would be unseated as the top OS for the first time in decades.

It’s not that Windows and other PCs will be going away — IDC projects PC sales to grow between now and 2016 — but that they will be surpassed by mobile devices, for which Android is the dominant OS.

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Between 2011, the latest year for which data is available, and 2016, IDC forecasts that Android’s share of the OS market will grow from 29.4 percent to 31.1 percent, while Apple’s iOS will grow from 14.6 percent to 17.3 percent.

Windows’ share, meanwhile, will dip from 35.9 percent, which currently leads the pack, to 25.1 percent.

The projections reflect both the move toward smart, connected devices and the appeal of relatively inexpensive ones, IDC said. "Android's growth is tied directly to the propagation of lower-priced devices," Tom Mainelli, IDC’s research director for Mobile Connected Devices said in a statement.

The fast pace of mobile devices’ growth also reflects the fact that people are using more than one. "We are in the multi-device age," said Bob O'Donnell, vice president of Clients and Displays at IDC, "and we believe the number of people who use multiple devices will only continue to increase. The trick, moving forward, will be to integrate all these devices into a unified whole through use of personal cloud-type applications and services. That's the real challenge of what we have often called the 'PC Plus' era."

Government also is picking up on the mobile trend, with agencies establishing mobile-device programs, mulling “bring your own device” policies and, in the Defense Department, working on a secure Anroid kernel  for use in the field.

Adoption of smart phones and tablets won’t erase desktop and laptop PCs from offices any time soon. In fact, IDC says the growth of smart phones will be driven by users in the Asia-Pacific region more than any other.

But where users go, organizations are likely to follow, and mobile use could eventually take up an even bigger place in the enterprise. A 2011 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, for example, noted that an increasing number of people use their smart phones as their primary access devices to the Internet.



About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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