As part of yesterday’s press event, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that there are over 1.4 billion active Android users. That figure is about double the user base for iOS, but more important it is very close to the user base for Windows.
Microsoft has long used the figure 1.5 billion for active Windows users. You can see this on its Microsoft By The Numbers web site, in fact.
What this means, of course, is that usage of Android is about to exceed usage of Windows. This means that Windows will no longer by the largest personal computing ecosystem, a position it has held for about 25 years.
Does it matter?
Not really. This day was coming, and I had expected Android to surpass Windows by the end of 2015, though given the pace–Google has added 400 million new Android users since May 2014–it looks like that won’t happen. So sometime in 2016.
As Microsoft has transitioned to the “mobile first, cloud first” era, I’ve cautioned Windows/Microsoft fans to get ready for this day, and for the inevitable future in which Windows is in fact the smallest of the three big personal computing platforms, behind Android and iOS.This is inevitable given that Windows has only seen success on PCs, while Android and iOS are dominant on smart phones and tablets. The market for smart phones is much bigger than that for PCs, and the tablet market is getting close, despite recent slowdowns.
As relevant, most new Android users are now coming from emerging markets such as Indonesia and Vietnam, and in these places a smart phone will be the only PC many users ever own. With Windows, the installed base is contracting, and few new users are coming on board.
Given recent antitrust issues in the EU and United States, it is possible—not likely, but possible—that Google will be forced to separate its own apps from the Android platform. Some may argue that if this happens, the notion of a dominant “Android” may be a bit less meaningful. I don’t see it that way. On Windows, users are free to run Microsoft applications or whatever applications they want, and no one would ever say a Windows PC shouldn’t be counted if that user uses Chrome, iTunes and LibreOffice instead of Microsoft’s apps.
Anyway, nothing has really changed. Android is the new Windows. As it has been for a few years, really.