Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PREDICTION: Google Android Operating System Will Steal Market Share From Microsoft Windows

Google's Android operating system, the way I see it, holds more potential than Apple Mac OS, in its ability to supplan Microsoft Windows as the mainstream OS.

Although Android has started from smartphones, I believe that it will soon start shipping on netbooks, then nettops, and finally on mainstream desktops and laptops/notebooks.

Multiple factors will be responsible for this
  1. The pressure to reduce prices of devices (Android is free and open source) will attract hardware makers (smartphones, netbooks, nettops, desktops, laptops, etc.) to Android. Also, the alleged discomfort that hardware makers have with Microsoft's licensing terms will be another factor pulling device makers to Android. Multiple device makers will flock to Android, and the market will see a huge surge in the number of devices of various shapes, sizes and prices - all powered by Android
  2. The capabilities and quality of Android as an operating system: Android, the way I see it, is a capable and complete operating system, and not a mobile-optimized and stripped-down version of a desktop operating system. There is nothing that stops the use of Android on mainstream desktops and laptops. And being open source software, bugs will be discovered and removed quickly - like it has been with Firefox and Linux
  3. The discomfort-with and hatred-for Microsoft and Windows: I believe that one of the chief reasons for the success of Firefox has been the devotion with which fans of Mozilla and Firefox have made efforts to develop, evolve, improve, promote and use it. The hatred for Microsoft, combined with the love for Mozilla caused millions of Microsoft users to shift to Firefox, and these converts also converted many of their friends and family members to Android. This same set of users will be among the first ones to install and try out Android, should it be available for the desktop. This set of users - probably millions in number - will be more than happy to use a Linux-kernel based operating system over Windows. This same set of users will develop, evolve, improve and ultimately spread Android to others
  4. Android is backed by Google. And many more heavyweights: Unlike Firefox, which is backed by the not-so-rich Mozilla, Android has the formidable backing of Google. Google has the financial and industry position to invest heavily in development, partnerships, and massive promotions, and unlike Microsoft, Google isn't hated by the community at large, at least apparently. It seems that developers are not only comfortable with Google, they are actually happy with it. Doubtlessly, most users are, as well. Add to this the support of the other members of OHA, and it's easy to see that the young Android already has lots of support
  5. Android-powered devices stay close to our heart: With iPod, Apple brought our whole collection of music to our pocket. We didn't need to have the collection on our Windows powered machine, thus reducing the need/role of Windows in one way. Android-powered smartphones will reduce the need/role of Windows-powered machines in multiple ways - we will be carrying our entire music, photos and videos collection right inside our Android-powered smartphone. Large-sized display will make Web browsing and online video more entertaining/productive/useful, and will also make watching locally stored photos and videos more fun. There will be lesser and lesser need to boot the Windows machine. Click a photo using the phone, and post it on Orkut or Facebook from within the phone - no need to transfer it to the laptop
  6. Location-specific information and social-networking: Wireless network, Wi-Fi and GPS, all allow a user's location to be discovered, and based on that tailored search results (among other things) can be provided to the user - not usually available on a desktop. Also, location enables creative and engaging new ways of social networking. Local and social will thus be yet more reasons why Android-powered devices will be more useful to the user than his Windows-powered desktop/laptop
  7. Application and data portability resulting from Cloud/SaaS applications: Google will push its Cloud-based services such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Picasa Web Albums, Google Maps, Blogger, etc., over native desktop applications in Android (user data resides on the servers, and is accessible from any other computer or smartphone). So while users temporarily switching from Android to Windows will be able to access their applications (Gmail, Blogger, etc.) and hence data on their Windows-powered machines, the reverse will frequently not be true (Microsoft is notorious for making the experience of its products poor on rival platforms - it's hard to imagine that an Outlook user will have seamless access to his Outlook data on an Android device)
  8. The sheer weight of Windows: While Android is fast even on a mobile device, Windows is often complained to be slow even on desktop machines. This sheer weight associated with Windows makes it less practical to run it on mobile devices, without heavy modifications. Because Google has started from a mobile device, it's easy for Google to upscale Android for a desktop machine. Microsoft, on the other hand, will have a tough time stripping Windows to enable it run with a decent speed on mobile devices. The dramatic difference between Windows Mobile and Windows Vista/7 create an inconsistent user experience, a situation Android should not suffer
  9. The halo effect: An interesting fact is that while on the desktop, users resist using an unfamiliar operating system, on mobile devices they happily use whatever proprietary system is given to them (Symbian, BlackBerry and the various flavors of proprietary OSes in low- or mid-end Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson phones). This fact will ensure that users will adopt Android OS on their phones as easily as they adopt other mobile OSes. Over time, these users will get familiar with the OS (its applications, UI, etc.), and when presented with a desktop computer powered by Android OS, these users will have no difficulty in using it or being productive on it. In fact, users who like Android may actually ask for it - Dell, HP, Toshiba, Acer, Sony and Lenovo should not make the grave mistake of ignoring Android as merely a smartphone OS
  10. Android is cool to use and cool to Flaunt. And Google is cool too: One of the key reasons why people buy a Mac, iPod or iPhone is the cool to use and makes me look cool among my friends factor. This image associated with Apple and Google is a far cry from the boring and corporate image associated with Microsoft. I believe that the coolness of Android (applications/features and UI), the coolness of owning a Google-powered device, and the coolness of telling friends that my phone runs Android, will be a non-insignificant factor in the adoption of Android
  11. The image of Windows is tarnished: If the unfriendly image of Microsoft was not enough, the image of Windows is apparently quite poor. Windows is considered an operating system that is slow, and is often plagued by viruses and other malware. Macs, on the other hand, are perceived to be fast, secure and free from malware. If Google succeeds in keeping Android free from malware and privacy/security issues, people who are fed up with Windows will want to move to Android (just like these people want to move to Macs)
  12. Android can be customized and even forked: Many device makers and wireless carriers like to customize the core OS according to their specific desires or needs. The open source nature of Android allows device makers to customize the OS. Device makers who do not get this flexibility with Windows Mobile or Symbian may choose Android instead. What's more, Android can even be forked to create an entirely customized operating system
  13. Android will improve quickly and dramatically: We should not forget that Android is very new. And whatever shortcomings it does have, they will probably be eliminated soon. It is easy to see that 2 years down the road, Android will be brimming with immensely useful applications and features

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