Google first introduced the world to Android in September of 2008 with the T-Mobile G1 by HTC. Research In Motion was running the show back then. Even into 2010, while Apple was quickly gaining traction, BlackBerry was nearly untouchable with 36 percent of the U.S. smartphone market share. Catching the market off guard, nobody really knew how to react or what to expect of the little green robot. Apple fanatics, BlackBerry users and the rest of the world laughed it off, predicting that Android would quickly fail in the midst of existing mobile platforms.
Oh, how things have changed.
As you probably know by now, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is in full swing and I've already lost count of everything that has been announced. In the midst of a barrage of new devices this morning, we were graced with some updated numbers from Google. The shorthand version of the story is that Android is slowly taking over the world. Year-on-year growth is 250 percent and daily device activations is quickly approaching one million with 850,000 new Android devices being activated each and every day, netting over 300 million Android devices having been sold around the globe.
It was pretty clear after some of the most popular devices to date – like the original Motorola DROID and EVO 4G – launched that Android was going to be a success. But never did I imagine it would reach this level of success. I mean ... just ponder those numbers for a minute. Carriers and manufacturers around the world are selling just shy of one million Android devices every day. No matter how you look at it, 850,000 is a hard number to wrap your head around.
That said, it makes one wonder just how long Google can keep these rates up. With 250 percent year-n-year growth, they are growing exponentially. Ultimately, that rate of growth is going to stop and sales will level off. And, eventually, other platforms will begin to close the gap.
Every empire comes to an end. That's not to say some don't last a long time – I fully believe Android will be here to stay for quite some time. Google has pretty well cemented its stay, at least for the next decade or so. But there are already several companies gunning for the top spot. The target on Google's back is only getting bigger.
So who when will Google hit its peak? And who will topple the giant?
Meg Whitman, the newly appointed CEO of HP, seems to believe it will be the twice-dead webOS. After acquiring and saving Palm from imminent death in 2010, HP proceeded to drive webOS straight back into the hole they pulled it out of. And after regrouping, giving the old CEO the boot and having a few all-hands meetings, Whitman announced that webOS will be open sourced. Despite having failed in the market twice, she apparently believes it will one day be better than iOS and Android. I will be the first to proclaim my love for webOS. But Whitman may be a little too confident for her own good. For webOS to do any real damage to its competitors, it has a few mountains to climb: manufacturer support, then carrier support and finally consumer support.
Research In Motion, too, has a new CEO and has big plans for future BlackBerrys. Details are scarce, but we've caught a glimpse of both BlackBerry 10 and a couple of devices. Anything for BlackBerry would be on the upside at this point, but they have more work to do than anyone at this point.
Windows Phone, although it's still in an infant state, has shown more promise than we ever imagined. It's growth, in terms of market share, when compared to Android is fairly bleak. Still, for any platform to enter the market during Android's peak is not going to be easy. Microsoft isn't going anywhere anytime soon (since they feed off of the success of Android), and their recent partnership with Nokia is proving to be a force to be reckoned with.
There are also smaller platforms, like Project Tizen from Samsung and Intel, that could blindside the market.
I'm not saying that Android will disappear overnight, or that the platform will fall off the map anytime soon. But at some point, their remarkable rate of growth will wane, things will level out. Companies that have been fighting tooth and nail for market share will pounce at such an opportunity, and Google might be a sitting duck.
I don't see another overnight change like what Android brought. But slow growth, over several years, like what we've seen from Windows Phone, will chip at the block, which could lead to the end of an empire. Who knows, maybe things will finally settle down a bit. Maybe there will be a balanced ecosystem where three or four platforms share the majority of the market share.
Tell me. Do you see anyone knocking Android from its pedestal in the next decade? Or worse, in the next year? How long can Google and Android keep up this rapid growth? Which platforms will be gunning for the title over the next couple years?