Here is my declaration of interest: I’m a huge Android fanboy. (As if that wasn’t screamingly obvious.) But it seems like I have good reason. Google SVP and head of Android Sundar Pichai has just tweeted (@sundarpichai) that “We now have over 1 Billion Android activations and hope this guy in front of the building keeps that momentum going.”
The guy in question is the latest incarnation of the Android mascot, chocolate-coated this time, fronting the latest upgrade to the Android OS as Android 4.4 KitKat, now due for release this autumn.
Apparently Nestlé and Hershey have given their blessing to Google, as well they might—this has got to be one of the biggest cross-fertilization boosts that any confectionery brand could have these days. (And yes, as I noted earlier, version releases don’t make so much difference for Android these days in terms of technology, but they do mean a lot in terms of branding.) And the final choice of name is a relief—Key Lime Pie, the prior choice of moniker, means absolutely nothing to me as a Brit—and probably to much of the global Android-using public either.
And therein lies much of the secret of those rocketing activation numbers—and the strongest indication of where the digital device market is heading. Emerging markets, especially China, turbocharged the activations way past what some observers were predicting, and are doing the same to Android’s market share. And since the lion’s share of future market growth is bound to come from these regions, Android’s leadership is only going to increase.
Furthermore, the latest platform version figures for Android developers show the latest and greatest Android OS version, Jelly Bean, creeping forward in terms of total device share to 45.1 percent. So Google and its OEMs seem to be doing a better job of ensuring that users run the best and brightest software—can you imagine how the installed user base of Windows PCs would look now if 45 percent of users were running Windows 8?
I buy into all of this because it implies the historic defeat of the walled garden model. Apple has applied anti-competitive, exclusive, and collusive practices across the board, from the anti-competitive IP lawsuit designed to shoot down other manufacturers’ devices by claiming patent infringements, to the ebook price fixing case. And their market share is crumbling. Google has thrown the doors open, and as a result, it owns the future.
And yes, I admit, that’s a very simplistic and one-sided analysis. And yes, the world needs a third, genuinely competitive mobile OS. (Although IMHO, that isn’t likely to be Windows Phone, even after Microsoft’s buy-over of Nokia, but just might be the Firefox OS or Ubuntu for phones.) And Google is no NGO or charity. But Apple’s notorious reality distortion field is having to work ever harder and harder, and like a lot of Apple technology, I honestly don’t think it’s up to the job any more. There’s just too much ground to cover—ground which Apple yielded to Android by trying to have everything its own way.
And -ebook readers everywhere would do better to lay off iBooks and stick to Kindle on their iPads. “iPad can do thousands of things a tablet PC or e-reader can’t,” boasts the Apple intro to iBooks—really? Like what? Apple is just begging to be called out on such brain-numbing Applebabble, and it seems the hard numbers are proving the point nowadays—as well as the U.S. Department of Justice. And readers had better hedge their bets, because who knows when iBooks might go the way of Microsoft Reader?