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Google's Android will surge in mobile OS wars, IDC says

68 million Android devices projected to ship in 2013, second only to Nokia's Symbian OS

January 25, 2010 02:33 PM ET

Computerworld - Google Inc.'s Android software will be the fastest growing operating system betwee\en now and 2013, when it will become the second most popular mobile OS, according to IDC.

The IDC projection nearly mirrors recent findings by Gartner Inc., which predicted that the Android OS will hit the second spot behind Nokia's Symbian in 2012.

IDC based its projection on research of market trends along with interviews of vendor executives.

IDC said that Symbian and Android will be the two most popular operating systems on the 391 million smartphones it projects will ship in 2013. Blackberry will be the third most popular mobile OS, followed by Windows Mobile and the iPhone version of Mac OS X, IDC said. Gartner predicted almost the same mix of OSs in 2012 as IDC did for 2013, but put the iPhone Mac OS X in fourth position, ahead of Windows Mobile. While Android will have the fastest growth of any OS through 2013, IDC noted that it will be running on the devices of a variety of manufacturers, which could "generate confusion among end users comparing their experiences with different Android devices."

IDC also noted that to date, independent application developers have struggled with Android, having to install multiple fixes and patches to apps in order to adhere to different specifications for multiple Android handsets. "Device fragmentation will most likely continue to plague [Android] developers. Those with deep pockets will most likely thrive while smaller ones struggle," IDC said in its report.

IDC analyst Will Stofega said in an interview that early last year, industry followers weren't sure what to make of Android. However, most analysts had concluded by the end of the year that "this OS is going to be a big deal."

IDC's projections come despite the addition of proprietary interfaces and other touches by individual manufacturters of Android devices. "We're already seeing splintering of the user interface with Android," Stofega said, noting the MotoBlur service in some Motorola Android handsets.

Some observers have said Google was looking for such diversity in Android devices, citing its role in creating the Open Handset Alliance. "Whether Google intended this diversity depend on how one sees Google's role. Is Google trying to be the overseer of Android? If so, they need to impose an iron fist because every manufacturer seems to do what they want. On the other hand, a lot of manufacturers are interested in Android," Stofega said.

Symbian, from Espoo, Finland-based Nokia, is not as well known in the U.S. as some other mobile operating systems, but to date has shipped on 250 million smartphones worldwide, IDC noted.

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