How Will Google Respond as Android's Market Share Peaks?
According to Strategy Analytics' most recent market share data, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, the Android mobile platform commanded a whopping 84 percent of global mobile platform market share in Q3 of 2014. The funny thing is, most analysts are taking note of the fact that it actually commanded 85 percent in Q2. In fact, some smart observers are wondering if Android may have finally topped out.
For the quarter that ended in September, Apple held 12 percent market share, while Windows Phone and BlackBerry commanded 3 percent and 1 percent.
But lots of analysts are beginning to wonder where Android can go. One postive answer may be that while its share of the mobile market can't go much higher, the market itself can. As The Wall Street Journal notes:
"Even if Android’s market share doesn’t go any higher, there is still good news for Google. For starters, the market overall is still growing. Strategy Analytics forecasts 12% growth in smartphone shipments in 2015."
"Google also appears to be turning the tide on the growth of so-called Android forks—versions of the mobile operating software that are developed independently and don’t come with Google’s lucrative mobile apps. As a percentage of total Android shipments, forks made up 37% in the third quarter, down slightly from 39% in the second quarter."
Without a doubt, Android has been a barnstorming success for Google. It has steered countless users toward Google's lucrative search/ad ecosystem, and it has ushered in success for other companies, especially Samsung.
Android only began to gain momentum in 2009, and there were early questions about whether it would ever become a viable mobile platform. But it's fair to ask questions about how much attention Google will continue to pay to it if its market share has permanently peaked.
Remember that Google does not have a business model built on making money selling Android. Rather, it depends on Android steering users toward its tools and properties. Even that is under scrutiny. For example, European regulators are looking at whether Android unfairly keeps users from using non-Google tools and applications.
In all likelihood, the mobile market itself will continue to grow for several years, but it is worth asking what Google's strategy will be now that there is little incremental market share for Android to continue to grab.