Android to oust Windows in connected gadgets (but there's a catch)

Android will rise to dominate connected devices by 2016, ousting Windows and outpacing iOS according to analyst predictions, though hardware manufacturers and app developers will still struggle to make money on Android devices. Growing popularity of Google's open-source platform will see the balance of media tablets, PCs and smartphones shift to favor Android rather than Microsoft's Windows, IDC forecast, with the mobile platform expected to comprise 31.1-percent of the market by 2016.

In comparison, Windows is expected to shrink in the market, the stumbling demand for x86-based PCs and tablets tipped to see the OS dip from 35.9-percent in 2011 to 25.1-percent in 2016. ARM-based Android devices will grow from their current 29.4-percent of the market, while Apple's iOS devices will grow from 14.6-percent in 2011 to 17.3-percent in 2016.

However, IDC warns, there's a big difference between market majority and cash cow, and producers of both apps and hardware may not find Android's dominance particularly beneficial to their bank balance. "Android's growth is tied directly to the propagation of lower-priced devices," Tom Mainelli, research director of Mobile Connected Devices at IDC said of the forecasts. "So, while we expect dozens of hardware vendors to own some share in the Android market, many will find profitability difficult to sustain."

"Similarly, we expect a large percentage of application developers to continue to focus their efforts on iOS, despite the platform's smaller overall market share," Mainelli continued, "because iOS end users have proven more willing to pay for high-quality apps."

What may make the difference, however, is the quality of the cloud services that pull each of the devices together. With increasing numbers of people having more than one connected device, whether phone, tablet or something else, IDC predicts successful companies will have a comprehensive, stable cloud strategy to handle data and multimedia synchronization and access across each gadget.