- Fortune, Monday, January 31, 2011 11:51 AM
Ending a near 10-year reign, Google's Android has unseated Nokia's Symbian as the world's leading smartphone software. But, what does the rapid rise mean for Google, and the industry at large? Fortune's Seth Weintraub
calls it "the most incredible ascent of any technology I
can remember in history" -- the real significance being that "Android is leading the charge to put smartphones, web-enabled handsets, into the whole word's hands. Along with Nokia, "The
numbers also highlight Google's success in battling Apple," writes Reuters
Unlike Apple or Nokia, Google offers its mobile operating system free to phone makers rather than making phones itself. "As a result, Android has become the standard software for many
phone makers," Reuters notes. (There's even speculation that Nokia might introduce smartphone models using Android.) Still, "The growth is remarkable, given Android's newness," marvels Fast Company
. Likewise, "Android was bound to become king eventually - it's free, scalable across all sorts of devices, and its growth
has been tremendous - but it's certainly a surprise to see it gain the top smartphone spot so soon," VentureBeat
Overall, as GigaOm points out, Android's rise is representative of booming smartphone
market. "The entire smartphone market grew by 89 percent year over year, with all the major players except Microsoft growing their shipment numbers," GigOm writes. "The explosion of smartphones ...
means opportunities across the industry and potentially more shifts to come."
According to Mashable: "The
change at the top was expected as Nokia recently reported comparably weak smartphone sales, a result of the company's struggles to transform its Symbian platform into a worthy competitor to Apple's
iOS and Google's Android."
Read the whole story at Fortune »
Why do people find it surprising that Android has tken off as it has. Apple proved the demand for smartphones was out there and Google provided handset manufacturers with an operating for free. On top of that, in the past year virtually every Android smartphone has been offered to users with buy one get one free offers. Give away the operating system, give away the phones, the operating system takes off.
The real test is the fact that Google has to hire developers to expand the apps available for it. Developers are chomping at the bit to get on the iOS operating system, but even the tremendous growth of Android, hasn't gotten developers to jump on board. That tells me its an inferior system and is only popular because it's free.