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Google’s Android platform has been on a tear since 2010. In that time, its global smartphone market share has risen from the single digits to just over 50 per cent.
However, clouds are gathering — platform fragmentation and lower spend by users are frustrating developers, Google’s purchase of Motorola is making hardware partners nervous, and Apple is gaining market share in the U.S. Meanwhile, Microsoft is stepping up its tablet ambitions as well.
This presentation highlights Android’s market opportunity, its position in the market, and its weaknesses as a platform, and how Google’s mobile announcements at the recent I/O conference play into the landscape.
Last year, smartphone sales outstripped PC sales for the first time. Mobile will soon be the dominant mode of computing.
Smartphone sales are just starting to make a significant impact as a percentage of global mobile phone sales. So the upside is huge.
Android is winning the race globally, accounting for more than 50 per cent of the market as of Q1 2012.
But its 7-inch screen, low price (starting at $199), and focus on reading content make it more of a competitor to the Kindle Fire than the iPad.
Meanwhile, the market for tablets is evolving fast. Last week, Microsoft announced it would break with 30 years of tradition and ship its own tablet-PC hybrid called Surface.
It runs Windows 8 -- not a mobile operating system, but the full desktop version of Windows, redesigned to work better on touch screens.
Surface will come in two versions, and will go on sale later this year for a starting price around $500.
Evernote, with 34 million users, exemplifies the problem. Android delivers the least revenue per user of any platform.
Android also has a fragmentation problem. Its users are spread across 7 different versions of the software, with the majority concentrated on four.
A new update, Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), which was unveiled this week at Google's I/O conference, won't help.
Android also has hardware fragmentation. It is slightly modified for every manufacturer, and then again for every device they produce.
This can make developing on Android a headache. It also makes it expensive for carriers and manufacturers to test new versions of Android on all these different devices.
But Motorola users are relatively active on their phones. This gives Google a good chance to display new services and ads to these users, and to upsell them to new devices.
Plus, Motorola gives Google a test bed for hardware innovations. For instance, Motorola would have been a great way for Google to seed the market for NFC-enabled devices and its Google Wallet service.
The big question is whether Google can keep its current partners on board while it makes the transition.
Windows Phone is in the middle of a platform transition and hasn't proven popular with users at all.
Some handset makers and carriers are expressing interest in Mozilla's Boot to Gecko mobile platform (shown here), which is built on HTML5 and other web standards, but it's still in very early days.
But it's important not to lose sight of the big picture. Over 100 million Americans, and billions of people around the world, do not own smartphones.
Whatever happens, the opportunity is huge. And right now Google is clearly ahead of every other player except Apple. It's Android's opportunity to blow.
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