The history of personal computing has come to be defined as the history of Microsoft. At least since 1981 Microsoft’s operating systems have been the consistent market share leaders, and by a very large margin. That is about to change. This year Android will be on more devices sold than Windows. iOS is also set to also overtake Windows next year. The following chart illustrates the wave of mobile platforms that has emerged, and in spite of some notable failures, is overtaking traditional computing.
Of course we should remember that PC themselves overtook entrenched predecessors like minicomputers and mainframes which themselves overtook business computing systems based on adding machines, typewriters and slide rules. This is the cycle of disruption and there is nothing new about it.
However, it always seems to take people by surprise.
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Apple announced that the total number of iTunes account (with credit cards attached) has reached 400 million. This was touted as being the largest collection of credit card accounts for any retailer and I have no reason to doubt it. However, looking beyond the bragging rights, there are more interesting patterns to observe about this asset.
What I plotted was the cumulative number of iPods sold (green), the cumulative number of iPhones and iPads (yellow), the combined devices total (red) and the reported number of iTunes accounts (blue).
In February of this year MediaTek introduced an ARM chipset for Android smartphones targeting $160 end user pricing. I’ve heard estimates that this chipset will sell in the “hundreds of millions”.
The question is: are these units going to be “activated” as per Google’s definition of Android?
Historically, MediaTek’s chips have been used in “grey market” devices. These are typically copies of branded phones and are sometimes shipped without IMEI numbers and hence not even sanctioned by regulatory authorities. If hundreds of million of such Android devices are sold in the next few years then tracking Android will become even more difficult.
The current total is difficult enough. We just received an update on the activation rate (900,000 per day) and that allows us to create a picture of total cumulative activations.
We still don’t know the retirement rate so these are not devices in use, however
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