Google's Android is expected to take the smartphone market by storm in the next few years, growing faster than all its competitors, according to an IDC report published Monday.
Android is expected to be the fastest growing wireless operating system from now until 2013, when the software will be the second most used smartphone operating system throughout the world, the report said.
Today, the Symbian operating system, used mostly on Nokia phones, dominates the smartphone operating system market worldwide. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion holds the No.2 spot currently, with Apple in the No.3 spot globally.
The numbers differ in the U.S. market where Symbian has very little market share. In the U.S., RIM is currently the top smartphone operating system provider, and Apple is in the No. 2 spot. Microsoft is in the third position with its Windows Mobile operating system.
But by 2013, Android is expected to grow much faster than all its competitors, IDC says. And it will knock out RIM as the No. 2 operating system provider globally and bump Apple from its second place position in the U.S.
The shift in market share comes as more device makers release phones using the Android operating system. A handful of new phones using Android from Motorola, HTC, and Samsung were announced in 2009, but in 2010 manufacturers are expected to increase the number of Android devices and ramp up sales. Motorola has said it's planning at least 10 new Android devices in the first half of 2010.
IDC analyst Stephen Drake said the sheer volume of devices that are expected to come out using the Android OS will catapult its growth. One of the big advantages Android has over other operating systems, such as RIM's or Apple's Mac OS, is that it can be used on hardware from a wide base of manufacturers. RIM and Apple only use their operating system on devices they make.
"While there are a lot of operating systems on the market, there are not a lot of opportunities for device manufacturers that don't own their own software," Drake said.
Microsoft's Windows Mobile also caters to this market. But Drake believes that Android's growth will outpace growth of Windows Mobile, because Android is free, open-source software, whereas Windows Mobile requires a licensing fee. For this reason, Drake believes that handset makers will focus more on Android.
Windows Mobile is still a popular mobile operating system, and it already has a large installed base. But growth is stalling as manufacturers and consumers wait for the next version of the operating system, Windows Mobile 7.0. That said, Drake doesn't believe that manufacturers will abandon Windows Mobile. But they will be adding more Android devices to their device mix. As an example, Drake said that HTC, the biggest handset maker using Windows Mobile, is looking more at Android, as is Motorola, LG, and Samsung.
"The story isn't great for Windows Mobile," he said. "If you look at news cycle for smartphones over the past year, where was Microsoft? They need a splash with Windows Mobile 7. And they need to produce a device with a 'wow factor,' something in the superphone range."