Android has officially hit the big time now that sales of its devices exceeded the Apple iPhone over the past quarter.Android’s rise is fairly remarkable for an operating system that only just launched in the fall of 2007.
Over the span of a mere quarter last year, Android saw its share of the U.S. smartphone market more than double, as the platform was used on more than 7% of all U.S. smartphones at the end of 2009. The most recent research released by the NPD Group showed that Android-based phones in the first quarter of 2010 accounted for 28% of all smartphone shipments, trailing only Research in Motion’s BlackBerry operating system, which accounted for 36% of all smartphone shipments in the quarter. And finally, Android-based phones are now available on all four major U.S. wireless carriers, with the million-selling Motorola Droid so far serving as the platform’s flagship device.
Looking back over the past three years, it seems that Google had a very simple but effective plan to push its way into a crowded market. Using a combination of free software, design simplicity and brand clout, Google has succeeded in making an operating system that, in just a couple of years, has grown to rival the most popular mobile platforms in the business. Let’s take a look at each element piece by piece:
* First, make it free. One of the most enticing aspects of Android from both a software developer and a device manufacturer perspective is that it’s completely free to use, as Google charges no licensing fees for anyone who wants to base their device or application on Android.
* Second, keep it simple. When Google went about attracting application developers to its new platform, it made a big deal about the Android software development kit’s ease of use. And since Android is Linux platform that uses Java as its programming language, most software developers on the market haven’t had much difficulty in writing programs for the operating system.
* Finally, be Google. There have been ambitious platform developers in the past who have tried to mainstream open source in the mobile OS market, but none of them so far have had the market clout of Google. Google’s brand recognition not only helps it attract media attention to its initiatives but also helps it more quickly develop relationships with device manufacturers, carriers and app developers.