Android, the growing force

Today, two significant events are happening. Samsung who has been carpet-bombing with ads all over the world on its new smartphone – the New Galaxy, is doing the big announcement in New York. I read that they have outspent everyone, even Apple, on marketing dollars (over $400 million in 2012). In the last month, during my visits to India, Germany, Czech Republic, and Turkey, I have noticed Samsung ads everywhere. Their market share on smartphones have grown dramatically during the last two years.

The second event is the stepping down of Andy Rubin, founder of Android at Google to a new role, as announced yesterday.

Android — which began life as an independent company Rubin co-founded in 2003 — is now a massive and growing force in mobile. Sure, some might grumble about the many forks and flavors, but the software powers more than 750 million devices from scores of different hardware makers. Android accounted for 70 percent of global smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to IDC.

The overall criticism seems to be its multiple flavors and incompatibilities. Apple’s chief marketing guy said yesterday that Samsung’s Galaxy users will use an operating system that is at least one year old. Keeping various flavors of Android in sync has been an issue.

Google has been pushing two operating systems – Chrome OS and Android, the former for laptops and tablets and the later for smartphones. By consolidating the Android group under the Chrome division, headed by SVP Sundar Pichai, Google is attempting to bring the two together. This is what Apple has done well with its iOS – it feels the same whether you are using the iPhone or the iPad and even some aspects of Mac laptops.

Steve Jobs was quite upset with Android and made some disparaging remarks during 2011 before his death. However, Apple has a battle as newer devices (hardware seems very much alike – a big shiny glass screen on metal with touch UI) all preferring Android as their OS. It must continue to innovate, mostly in the software, to attract customers as Android becomes a real threat.

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