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Android Will Be on More Devices Than All Major Operating Systems Combined

By the end of this year, Android will be in more devices than the next four competitors combined (Windows, iOS, Mac OS, and BlackBerry). Before the end of this decade, Android will be in nearly as many devices as all other operating systems combined.

According to market research firm Gartner, in 2012, Android pulled ahead of Windows as the world's dominant operating system (counting PCs, tablets, and phones) by about 150 million devices. This year, it will ship on more than double the number of devices running Windows; and it will nearly triple Windows shipments from 2014 to 2017, according to Gartner.

Google's Android OS was installed on 497 million devices that shipped in 2012 and will grow by 364 million units to about 861 million this year according to Gartner's most recent forecast, "Forecast: Devices by Operating System and User Type, Worldwide, 2010-2017, 1Q13 Update." In 2014, Android will make the jump into the 10 figures with shipments of 1.07 billion units. By 2017, that figure will climb by another 400 million units to 1.47 billion.

Microsoft Windows, according to Gartner's forecast, will continue to grow but will lag further and further behind Android. In 2012, Windows shipped on 346.5 million units and will grow by fewer than 8 million units to 354 million. In 2014, Windows will climb to 397.5 million and will jump to 570.9 million by 2017, according to Gartner.

"The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a prepared statement. "Software and chipset architecture are also impacted by this shift as consumers embrace apps and personal cloud."

But what of Apple's iOS? The Gartner forecast combined iOS and Mac OS into a single figure, which still positions Apple's combined shipments in third place behind the two leaders — but not far behind Microsoft. In 2012, Apple totaled about 212.9 million units, less than two-thirds of Windows' share of worldwide unit shipments. By the end of this year, Gartner predicted, the gap will close to 67 million units, with Apple shipping 293.4 million Macs, iPads, iPhones, and other devices. In 2014 the gap will close to 38 million units as Apple ships 359.5 million devices. And in 2017, the gap will widen slightly again to about 64 million units as Apple ships 504.1 million devices.

BlackBerry (formerly RIM) is currently in fourth place in worldwide shipments at 34.7 million units in 2012. Through 2017, Gartner predicted, BlackBerry will see slow, steady declines: 31.3 million units in 2013; 27.2 million in 2014; and 24.1 million in 2017.

Interestingly, the universe of "all other operating systems" will shrink substantially between now and 2017. In 2012, there were 1.12 million devices that shipped with an operating system other than those supplied by Google, Microsoft, Apple, or BlackBerry. That will decline substantially to about 397 million units in 2017.

All told, Android will be on more devices than the next three competitors combined beginning this year and continuing through the forecast period. By 2017, it will be on nearly as many devices as all other operating systems — both major and minor — combined.

The shift in OS dominance is predicated on a shift in consumer buying habits away from PCs and toward tablets and phones.

Mobile phones are dominant now and will continue to dominate even more heavily throughout the forecast period. Tablets, meanwhile will grow to surpass combined shipments of desktop and notebook PCs by 2017.

"Lower prices, form factor variety, cloud update and consumers' addiction to apps will be the key drivers in the tablet market," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, in a prepared statement. "Growth in the tablet segment will not be limited to mature markets alone. Users in emerging markets who are looking for a companion to their mobile phone will increasingly choose a tablet as their first computing device and not a PC."

Worldwide Device Shipments, 2012–2017 (Units in Thousands)

Device Type

2012

2013

2014

2017

PC (Desktop and Notebook)

341,263

315,229

302,315

271,612

Ultramobile

9,822

23,592

38,687

96,350

Tablet

116,113

197,202

265,731

467,951

Mobile Phone

1,746,176

1,875,774

1,949,722

2,128,871

Total

2,213,373

2,411,796

2,556,455

2,964,783


Source: Gartner (April 2013)

"While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet, especially those who use either or both for work and play, most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device," Milanesi said. "As consumers shift their time away from their PC to tablets and smartphones, they will no longer see their PC as a device that they need to replace on a regular basis."

The complete report, "Forecast: Devices by Operating System and User Type, Worldwide, 2010-2017, 1Q13 Update," is available on Gartner's site.

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