A Friend Asked Me The Other Day, “What is Android?”

Strangely enough I had to answer him with, “I don’t actually know”. OK, of course I knew it was an operating system (an operating system, for those who are not technical at all, is what your computer runs on).

Now, if my friend had not been totally lazy, he could have looked it up on Wikipedia, but he didn’t. If he did, he would have found out that Android is a Linux based operating system.

Back in the olden days (in my grandfather’s time). There was an operating system called Unix. OK, it’s still around, but it’s not generally used for your average office worker or home user. It tends to be used a lot for scientific applications.

Linux is the offshoot of Unix that was supposed to be for PCs and home users.

Unfortunately Linux doesn’t have that much appeal to home users, for two reasons. Firstly people are used to Apple and Microsoft, which are relatively user friendly to non technical people. Secondly, Microsoft had the apps market all sewn up with their office products. Very hard for Linux to compete with that when everybody is sending Word documents that people want to be able to read.

So that is the origin of Android, but where is it now?

Well in 2005 Google (once again this company that has become top dog in the computing world appears to be calling the shots) purchased Android. It was another prescient move by a company that seems to be able to see the future of computing. The question is, does it see the future or does it make the future happen?

In 2005 most computing was still done on the desktop computer (usually running Windows).

There was at this time a bit of a shift happening towards laptops as prices of laptops came down and corporations realised that they could tether more people to work out of hours if they had a laptop, but it wasn’t an overnight shift.

Since then the shift away from desktops has accelerated. One of the main factors in this I think was the sudden availability of wireless. Why be tied to one spot when you can sit anywhere in your house or office and be connected?

Next was the shift from laptops (usually running Windows) to tablets. This has happened mostly since 2010. The iPad started the shift, but lately the Android tablets have taken over.

At the moment 50 per cent of web browsing is done on phones and tablets and that percentage is growing

With remarkable foresight, Google has sewn up the market for the devices that are the future direction for computing. Eighty five percent of phones run Android and 70 per cent of tablets. Windows phones are nowhere. Nor are Windows tablets.

Could Microsoft become extinct?

Yes it could. It sounds outrageous to think of now, but yes. Those who don’t believe this possible probably have never heard of Novell. Novell was the biggest computer networking company in the World in the 90’s before Microsoft took off. It’s now nothing more than a subsidiary of another company. Its decline occurred because Microsoft outflanked it in much the same way Google is now outflanking Microsoft.

Microsoft is not done yet, but unless they evolve, there’s a possibility of decline. Empires rise and fall pretty fast in computing.

By the way, just in case you think I’m some kind of Google loving, Granola munching, vegan hipster who hates Microsoft, this article was written on a laptop running Windows 7.

The surface tablet is dead


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