When Google’s Android mobile OS launched it was met with skepticism, pessimism, and doubt. Slowly but surely, Google recruited new hardware partners, launched new handsets, eventually reaching sales of 65,000 units a day — then 100,000. And Google maintained a relentless pace of OS releases — with such high profile updates as Android 1.5, 2.0, 2.1, and, most recently, 2.2 (Froyo).
Now market researcher Canalys claims that Google is now the top player in the U.S. smartphone market in terms of market share. According to Canalys’s extensive study, Google owns 34 percent of the market compared to Research in Motion’s 32 percent and Apple’s 21.7 percent.
Propelled by wildly successful handsets like HTC Hero (October 2009), Motorola Droid (November 2009), HTC Droid Incredible (April 2010), HTC EVO 4G (June 2010), and Motorola Droid X (July 2010), Google has dominated the market with an astounding sales growth of 886 percent.
Perhaps the only analogy to what Google is doing in the history of operating systems is Microsoft’s incredible conquest of the personal computer operating system market with Windows. Much like Windows, Google’s multi-hardware OEM, open approach, focused on providing customers with a broad array of choices, is crushing its more specialized competitors, like Apple (which ironically was similarly crushed by Microsoft in the PC OS market).
That’s not to say that Apple or RIM are posting financial losses. In fact, Apple grew 61 percent in sales year-to-year and RIM grew 41 percent. What is happening, though, is that they appear to be missing the growth opportunity that Android has found with its open, third-party hardware model.
Android’s success looks especially scary considering that it appears to just be getting warmed up. Android 3.0 “Gingerbread” should launch this holiday season with some pretty amazing new features. Motorola, HTC, and others are reportedly already cooking up new high end handsets to accompany the OS launch.
In terms of individual hardware OEMs, Nokia still is the dominant party, owning 38 percent of the market. Overall smartphone sales rose 64 percent on a year-to-year basis.