Android Gaining Favor With Business Users


New research from ChangeWave shows Android's growing popularity extends to business users as well as consumers. The Google operating system's share of the corporate market has climbed rapidly from just 3% in November 2009 to 16% in August, based on a survey of 1,602 IT buyers.

The biggest surge came in the three months between May and August, when Android spiked from 10% to 16%. Not surprisingly, Android's gain has come at the expense of Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS, long dominant in the enterprise market. From May to August, BlackBerry's share slipped from 69% to 66%.

Among other platforms, Apple picked up a percentage point, going from 31% to 32%, while Windows Mobile and Palm each dropped a point, from 10% to 9%, and 7% to 6%, respectively.

Wall Street analysts have forecast a dimming future for BlackBerry in the corporate world as more and more companies allow employees to choose their own mobile phone. An August survey of 200 companies in the U.S. and the U.K. by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. found 74% let workers use devices other than BlackBerrys.

The new Torch model featuring the latest version of the BlackBerry OS has so far failed to ignite a reversal of the phone maker's declining fortunes in the smartphone market. In the second quarter, Android-based devices  surpassed BlackBerry as the top-selling smartphone platform in the U.S. for the first time, according to Gartner. The research firm also predicted Android would become the second most pervasive platform worldwide after Symbian by 2014.

An interesting question is whether Android will surpass Apple's iOS as the main challenger to BlackBerry in the corporate market in the next year or so. If the last year is any guide, Android would come close to matching Apple's roughly one-third share by the end of 2011. Apple's growth over the last three months has all but stalled, while Android's has picked up steam.

Looking ahead, the ChangeWave survey found 35% of IT managers said their company plans to buy smartphones next quarter. HTC and Motorola, which have both enjoyed rising sales with the introduction of multiple Android phones, are gaining ground in corporate suites also. One of every seven companies plans to buy HTC or Motorola phones in the next quarter, compared to only about 5%, respectively, a year ago.

One wild card is Microsoft's expected launch of the Windows Phone 7 operating system at year's end, which could help the platform regain ground among business customers. Like RIM, Microsoft has built its business on enterprise users. But that doesn't seem to guarantee anything these days when it comes to smartphone sales.

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