Google’s (s goog) Android operating system is set for iPhone-trajectory sales over the next few years, Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said in a report yesterday from Computerworld, and will be the second-ranking smartphone OS globally by 2012. Gartner predicts Android’s share of the smartphone market will grow to 14 percent from less than 2 percent in the next three years as Symbian’s slide from dominance continues.
That kind of performance would mirror Apple’s staggering success over the last two years. Apple launched its first-generation iPhone in the U.S. in 2007 and quickly took the worldwide market by storm; the iPhone OS enjoyed a global market share of 11 percent in the first quarter of 2009 and has watched its footprint continue to expand. But while there’s no denying Android’s momentum, overtaking Apple (s aapl) in just a few years seems like a monumental task.
Dulaney makes a compelling case: A slew of handset vendors are jumping aboard the Android bandwagon (largely at the expense of Windows Mobile), the platform has effectively grown its developer community, and it now has the backing of America’s largest mobile network operator. And Android is built on open-source technology, Dulaney noted, giving it a decided edge over Apple’s proprietary platform.
However, the iPhone remains the overwhelming device of choice for smartphone users, and is increasingly being offered by carriers around the world. And while Apple pretty much had the benefit of being a first mover in offering a consumer-friendly, Internet-capable smartphone, Android is battling it out not just with Apple but also with Research In Motion’s (s rimm) BlackBerry, Palm’s (s palm) webOS and others. Android may appear to be an irresistible force, but the field is wide open in these early days of the superphone.