Android surpasses Windows as the world goes mobile

Credit: Android via Flickr

For those who doubted that there’s a major shift happening in the way people get online for work or play, a few reports out this week should convince them that there’s no turning back now.

Mary Meeker presented some research earlier this week that should have Microsoft sweating. According to TechCrunch, she said that in the first quarter this year more Internet-enabled Android devices shipped than Internet-enabled Windows devices. By the end of next year, she expects quarterly shipments of 160 million Android devices, 100 million Windows devices, and 80 million iOS devices.

In fact, Meeker said, that by the second quarter next year she thinks that globally, the installed base of smartphones and tablets combined will surpass that of PCs.

Those numbers are a stark portrayal of the change in the way that people get online. Instead of doing the bulk of work sitting in front of a Windows machine behind a desk, people are getting online from their phones and tablets often while mobile. With Android now outselling the second-most popular smartphone platform, iOS, by a ratio of five-to-one, that means most of these new devices are running Android.

Smartphones and tablets aren’t replacing PCs. But as if to support Meeker’s research, Informa Telecoms put out a report showing that for the first time more smartphones connect to hotspots than laptops. It was a squeaker: Informa found that 40 percent of all hotspot connections are made by smartphones, 39 percent by laptops, and 17 percent by tablets.

So not only are people straying from their desks, they’re straying from their Windows-powered laptops to use phones and tablets to get online.

All of these reports should worry Microsoft, which is only just now getting into the tablet business in earnest, and which has struggled to gain market acceptance for its Windows Phone smartphone platform. IDC reported this week that tablet shipments worldwide in the third quarter were 27.8 million, a nearly 50 percent growth over the same quarter last year.

There are outliers who still cling to the old model, or a form of it, but they have good reason to. IDG News Service reported this week that Lenovo’s CEO said he expects people will lose interest in tablets in favor of convertible laptops. With Lenovo’s recent introduction of the Yoga, a Windows 8 laptop with a screen that folds all the way back so the machine can be used like a tablet, he would say that.

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