Android grabs most-popular OS prize from Windows

Measurements of online activity put Android ahead of Windows for the first time; Apple's OSes place distant third

IDG

IDG

Android last month slipped ahead of Windows to become the world's most popular operating system, an Irish analytics company said Monday.

"This is a milestone in technology history," said Aodhan Cullen, the CEO of Dublin-based StatCounter, in a statement. "It marks the end of Microsoft's leadership worldwide of the OS market which it has held since the 1980s."

StatCounter measures usage share -- a proxy for online activity -- by tallying the operating systems of the devices used to browse to its clients' websites.

According to StatCounter, Android's usage share of all computing devices, including smartphones, tablets and personal computers, was 37.93% in March, just a hair ahead of Windows' 37.91%. It was the first time since StatCounter began tracking usage share that Windows did not hold the top spot.

StatCounter's trend lines have been clear for some time: Windows heading down with Android slowly moving up. (The combined usage shares of Apple's iOS and macOS, the latter formerly labeled "OS X," have also been on a long journey upwards, but have never broken 20%. For March, the pair accounted for 18.3% of worldwide usage.)

But it wasn't that long ago that Windows owned the lion's share of online activity. As recently as January 2013, Windows accounted for 75% of all usage. Microsoft's operating systems controlled 50% of usage share in July 2015.

StatCounter's Cullen attributed Android's rise to the boom in Internet access from smartphones as well as the huge numbers of Android devices now in use around the world. Meanwhile, a multi-year slump in sales of traditional personal computers left Android -- which plays virtually no role in the category -- unscathed while hitting Microsoft hard.

Not mentioned by Cullen was Microsoft's disastrous attempt to become a major mobile OS player. After years and billions of dollars, Microsoft essentially tossed in the towel.

Different measurements have pointed out Android's massive edge over Windows in other areas. Research firm Gartner, for example, has regularly pegged Android as the OS on the bulk of devices shipped each year. During 2016, Gartner said Android powered 60% of all new computing devices -- mobile phones, personal computers, and tablets -- while Windows accounted for just 11%.

Some regions remain Windows strongholds, said StatCounter. In North America, Windows' usage share of 39.5% topped both iOS's (25.7%) and Android's (21.2%). In Europe, Windows' March share (51.7%) was more than double Android's (23.6%) and nearly quadruple iOS's (13.7%).

Asia and Africa, however, swing Android's way. In the former, Android (52.2%) easily beat Windows (29.2%) in March, and trounced iOS (8.8%).

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