Android History – Past, Present & Future [With Infographics]
Smartphones have become quite ubiquitous nowadays, with many people owning one or more? However, this was not the case several years ago; thus, the explosion of the smartphone market can be attributed to the release of Android operating system from Google. It is based on Linux, the open source operating system responsible for powering many computers, especially servers and supercomputers.
What is Android?
Google is known to be one of the most innovative technology companies in the world, and this fact has been exemplified by the wide array of its products. One of their flagship products that marked the company’s foray into the smartphone market is the Android operating system for mobile devices. Before Android hit the market, the only viable smartphone in the market was the iPhone, made by Google’s bitter rival, Apple Inc. However, there is a stark difference between Android and iOS, the operating system that runs on mobile devices: Android is free software while iOS is proprietary. This in essence means that Android can be used on any mobile device that supports it, and you can tinker around with the operating system so that it fits your needs. This is very important because there are many developers who would like to change certain aspects of the operating system. The aspect of Android being opensource enabled many mobile device manufacturers to actually manufacture low-end phones and run Android on them.
Stormy Beginning and Transition
Actually, the launch of Android was quite turbulent, marked with a major acquisition by Google. However, few people are aware of the fact that Android started way back, in 2003, as a pet project of its creator, Andy Rubin. Back then, the main motivation for Mr. Rubin was to make mobile software that would power smarter phones that were able to have a sense of location as well as be aware of user preferences. Mr Rubin, being an engineer renowned for tinkering with software code as well as hardware, partnered with Rich Miner, Nick Sears and Chris White to found Android Inc in 2003, which then worked on the first prototype of Android mobile operating system. This version was based on the Linux kernel, which is open source software that is very powerful. However, the company kept this project under wraps, but it soon got into trouble. At one point, the company ran out of money and could not continue with the project; strange enough, a friend of Mr. Rubin, Steve Perlman, gave him US$10,000 in cash, but unexpectedly refused to take a share of the company in return. In 2005, there were loud rumors that Google was about to get into the mobile industry foray, and that it was interested in both the hardware and software. Since Mr. Rubin had met the founders of Google at a technology event before, they were aware of his ongoing project, and they finally brought Android Inc and transformed it into a well-funded subsidiary at Google. This marked the turning point as Rubin, White and Miner came along, and a team of talented engineers joined them. This now meant that Mr. Rubin and his team would focus on making Android the top mobile operating system in the world.
But the road to becoming the dominant mobile phone operating system was not that smooth. But the point of maturation for Android must have been the formation of the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of mobile phone companies and carriers that had the main objective of making open standards for mobile devices. This enabled Google to run Android on most successful commercial mobile devices, and the first version available to consumers was shipped in December 2008, running on HTC Dream phone. From this point on, Google focused on several iterations that were meant to make Android faster and less cluttered, as well as to make it run on as many devices as possible. When major handset manufacturers such as Samsung and LG started running Android on their mobile devices, there was no way of stopping its rise. Also, the rise in popularity of tablet computers marked a major milestone for Android, since most manufacturers of affordable tablet computers, such as HTC and Huawei, ran Android on them. Many more handset manufacturers trooped to Google’s offices with an aim of getting a customized version of Android running on the gadgets.
Steve Jobs, the then CEO of Apple, made a serious allegation that Android was actually cloned from iOS, and he was quite bitter about this. It is alleged that he was so infuriated that Google had poached some of the top developers who had worked on iOS and cloned it to come up with Android that he vowed to fight it for the rest of his life. This was mainly due to the fact that Android posed a great threat to the market share of iOS, and the mobile device market in general. However, this did not deter Google from going ahead and aggressively marketing Android. Also, getting Android to work on the wide array of devices it was installed in posed a big challenge in the beginning. This is because different manufacturers made tablets and smartphones with different specifications and configurations; however, the open source nature of Android one again came to the rescue and allowed the device manufacturers to alter the nature of Android to fit their devices.
The Rise of Android
Having withstood the turbulent beginnings, Android started to rise and eat up much of the mobile operating system market. Having been adopted by many device manufacturers, Android runs on hundreds of millions of mobile devices, from high-end smartphones to low-end tablets. Analysts have been remarking how this operating system has been rising over the years and eating up more market share. One such analyst, Strategy Analytics, stated that in 2012, 68.4% of smartphones globally ran on Android. This is a huge market share by any account, and it is a stark reminder of how Android is changing the smartphone and tablet market.
Here is an awesome infograph published by [x]cube labs.
What led to the rise of Android?
So, what really led to the rise of Android in the smartphone and tablet market? One of the main reasons is the open source nature of Android. Just five years or so ago, iOS had the lion share of the market despite the fact that it could only run on the iPhone and the iPad. This was the case simply because people had no alternative other than to buy either of these mobile devices so as to use iOS. However, when Android launched as an open source product, it allowed many more handset manufacturers to make smartphones of any price point and run Android on them. The rise of Android on the global scale has been fueled by cheap smartphones that are based on the operating system, mainly in the developing world. Since the iOS comes in the iPhone and iPad, which are quite costly for most people in the developing world, getting a cheaper smartphone running on Android has been more than welcome by this part of the world, and that is why Android has a huge market share on the global level as compared to the US. This trend is continuing, with more affordable tablet computers hitting the market in recent months.
The Future of Android
Since it has risen so fast, analysts have been speculating on the future of Android. The fact that many more people are getting mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is testament that the rise of Android will continue for some while. Major smartphone companies such as Nokia have been reported to be contemplating on using Android on their smart phones. If these rumors are true, then Android will continue gaining a bigger market share of the smart phone market. Also, the increasing number of Android app developers has proven to be a major driving force of the Android operating system. Actually, apps have been the heart of smartphones, since they enable people to use their smartphones for many purposes, most of which were limited to the personal computer. Getting varied computing capabilities and power on a smartphone or tablet has proven to be a big boost as more people are getting smartphones.
But computing is taking an interesting approach; Google has unveiled its Google Glass project, a wearable computer, in the form of spectacles. This device enables one to view emails, take and share photos, and do many other things, using their eyes. The most interesting thing about this product is that it runs on Android; this therefore opens up numerous possibilities for developing similar gadgets that are aimed at making ubiquitous computing a reality. With reports indicating that Google Glass will be released later in 2013, the future looks quite promising for Android. There also have been reports that other manufacturers of ubiquitous gadgets are considering making watches that function as computers, with most of them running on Android. Thus, all indications point to the fact that Android will be around for the long haul.