Android's Steep Climb

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android operating system has gained momentum over the course of 2009, but still faces an uphill battle to match the bigger names in the mobile operating system world: Symbian Ltd. , BlackBerry , Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).

New smartphone research from Canalys.com Ltd. says that Android has captured 3.5 percent of the global smartphone operating system market. Not bad for an OS that was nowhere in the race the year before.

The Canalys survey, however, indicates how much further Android has to go before the code can be considered a major player in the mobile market. The researchers find that:

  • Symbian maintained a commanding 46.2 percent share of the overall smartphone OS market in the third quarter of 2009, although it only grew that share 2.6 percent year-on-year.

  • RIM grew its market share by over 40 percent year-on-year to take 20.6 percent of the overall pie. The analysts find that much of this growth is coming from outside RIM's traditional North American stronghold.

  • Apple continues to put in a good performance in the mobile operating system market, especially considering the limited number of smartphones that use its OS. The iPhone maker grabbed 17.8 percent of the global market, up 6.7 percent compared to 2008.

  • Microsoft is the big loser in the pack with its global market share at 8.8 percent, down 33.1 percent, according to Canalys.

Nonetheless, Google's Android still tails Windows Mobile with a 3.5 percent market share in the third quarter. This, however, may change if operators and phone vendors maintain the momentum behind Android.

Just this week, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications announced that its first long-anticipated Android smartphone -- the Xperia X10 -- will start shipping in the first quarter of 2010. This will be followed by more phones on the platform in the balance of next year. (See The Android Shopping List.)

T-Mobile US Inc. , meanwhile, maintains its top Android carrier status, declaring this week at the Open Mobile conference in San Francisco that it will make four smartphones with OS available this year. Verizon Wireless isn't far behind, with up to three Android devices from the carrier coming soon. (See Verizon's Droid Takes On AT&T's iPhone.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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