Google's initial success with its Android mobile operating system will continue-and in a very big way. That's according to research firm Strategy Analytics, which predicts that global shipments of Android-based smart phones will grow a stunning 900 percent this year.
The second fastest-growing smart phone operating system will be Apple's iPhone, which will have a healthy 79-percent growth rate, the report predicts.
"Android has fast been winning healthy support among operators, vendors and developers," said Strategic Analytics senior analyst Tom Kang in a statement. "Android is now in a good position to become a top-tier player in smart phones over the next two to three years," he said.
The first Android-equipped phone, the T-Mobile G1, has been a big hit. G1 sales hit one million in the first six months after the phone's October 2008 debut.
The secret to Android's success? "A relatively low-cost licensing model, its semi-open-source structure and Google's support for cloud services," have combined to make the mobile OS appealing to major handset makers and wireless providers, including HTC, Motorola, Samsung, T Mobile, and Vodafone, Kang says.
In addition to the G1, other Android devices are starting to appear. In late April Samsung unveiled its first Android phone, the I7500, which will be available in Europe next month. Acer plans to launch an Android phone later this year, and is reportedly working on other Android-equipped devices as well.
And ongoing industry rumors speculate that Android may soon muscle its way into the burgeoning netbook computer market, where Google's OS could prove a formidable challenger to Microsoft Windows.
Certainly, there are many unanswered questions about Android, such as how well it would perform across a range of portable devices, including smart phones, netbooks, game controllers, and even medical monitoring tools. Some analysts believe the Android user interface still needs work, and question whether the OS is ready to move beyond smart phones, where it has performed well thus far.