After more than eight years in the hands of consumers, Android is poised to overtake Windows as the most used operating system in the world. This measurement comes by way of web analytics firm StatCounter, which follows trends in worldwide web traffic. Microsoft Windows holds the slimmest of margins over Android, and they could trade positions very soon if current trends continue.
Windows accounts for 38.6% of global web traffic, according to StatCounter. Android, on the other hand, has climbed to 37.4% of online activity. Android has grown considerably since 2012, when StatCounter reports it accounted for just 2.2% of web traffic. Windows at that time made up a whopping 83% of online usage. Microsoft probably isn’t very happy about this trend. Meanwhile, the numbers slow a slight downward trend for Apple’s macOS, which has lost a few points over the same period. iOS has gained, but it’s still far behind Android. This data does not differentiate based on device type, so phones, tablets, 2-in-1s, and all other form factors are included.
The numbers match what we know about the state of the mobile and PC markets. People are buying more phones than ever, and they’re buying fewer computers. In fact, Android device makers have been shipping more units compared with Microsoft for several years. By that measure, Android is already more popular. It just took time for the usage share to catch up after Windows’ big head start.
Google’s model for Android was widely questioned in the first few years of the platform. Android itself is open source, allowing any company to create its own version of the OS. This is something Amazon has done to great effect with its line of Fire devices. If you want Google’s apps (which almost everyone does) you have to go through certification and give Google some say over how the device and software are designed.
Google won’t talk about how much certification costs, but it’s believed to be a trivially small amount compared with a Windows license. Google makes most of its money on Android from increased use of its services. The low cost in bringing an Android device to the market is one of the driving forces behind its growth. As people move more and more of their online activities from desktops and laptops to their phones, Android will only take up a larger portion of the internet. By early 2018, it should be the undisputed king. But who knows how long its reign will last