July 26, 2015
Microsoft Windows has dominated the OS market for decades – pretty much as long as computers have been commercially available. With near impunity, Windows has done everything it can to retain its control; until now, that is.
If any company could challenge Microsoft and win, it’s Google with its Android OS. While hardly a David v Goliath scenario (more like Goliath v Goliath), it is an upset that will change the way we interact with our digital devices. Android utilizes a Linux-based OS that is renowned for being open sourced and highly adaptable. Even more important, tech nerds love Linux. Its simple, easy to use, and highly customizable – everything the modern techie needs and wants.
How Did it Happen?
So how did Windows start losing its grip? The short answer is that Microsoft dropped the ball. The long answer is that while Microsoft was dropping said ball, Google was picking it up and running it into the endzone…over and over again.
While Microsoft made several key missteps, it really comes down to Microsoft’s shortsightedness and Windows losing touch with its origins. One of the earliest PC OS was known as MS-DOS, which eventually became the first version of Windows. MS-DOS was a non-proprietary program built by the revered tech company, IBM.
Windows was originally designed to perform across all PCs, no matter the hardware. In the early days of the computer age, this portability was perfect for the first computers. It allowed for a single OS to be used on any PC, no matter the tech used in its construction. Like its predecessor, MS-DOT, the original Windows was built on a principle of open-source. PC operators had essentially free reign to customize the system to their liking.
Over the intervening 30 years, Windows steadily became more rigid and far less open. While Windows was doing this, Google was listening to the market. When they developed their Android OS, they co-opted Linux, an incredibly popular OS among tech elites. Linux is incredibly open, offering endless opportunities for developers to do as they pleased.
The introduction of devices
As if this wasn’t enough, Microsoft was not quick enough to hop on the digital device market. Apple, on the other hand, saw the huge potential this burgeoning field posed. They quickly pivoted their company to incorporate device development and design. With the release of the iPod, Apple was finally able to gain traction against Microsoft and quickly became a tech legend.
Google took a slightly different tactic than Apple. Instead of creating a proprietary piece of software that only works on Apple products, they created an OS that could be used on a wide range of devices. Within a few years, Android proliferated through the SmartPhone market and now has a 78% share of the mobile phone market.
At the 2015 Google I/O, Google’s Sr. VP Sundar Pichai surprised techies everywhere by announcing that the company’s future was in Android and Android OS. With Google’s proven track record to mix things up (as they did with The Internet 2.0), there will no doubt be many exciting new tech developments in the upcoming years.
Of course, the news for Android isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are clear similarities between Windows 30 years ago and Android today:
- Both started as an open-source and flexible OS. Windows has moved away from this, but for now Google remains strong. Will they still be a strong voice for open source software in the future? We shall see – though there is reason to have hope.
- Windows and Android started as software that was loaded onto third-party hardware. This gave both the opportunity to wrest the market away from Apple, who focused on creating a specialized OS designed for Apple hardware.
- While both quickly surpassed Apple’s share of the OS/mobile market, their reliance upon third-parties meant a much smaller revenue than Apple enjoyed. To this day, Windows had a ridiculous 91% share of the OS market, but it, along with Android, trail Apple in revenue.
The good news is that Google has shown time and again that it is perfectly capable of learning from past. Google and Android are succeeding because they listen to their client base. Android is more than willing to adapt and evolve based on the desires of its users, a winning feature for any business.
Image Credit: Flickr/TechStage
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