Quick, which operating system is the most widely used when it comes to surfing the Internet? You would be forgiven for saying Microsoft Windows, since the tech behemoth has dominated the OS landscape since, well, forever. But for the first time ever, Windows has been eclipsed by Google's Android OS, marking a major turning point in the history of Internet usage.
Android topped the worldwide OS Internet usage market share for the month of March with 37.93 percent, putting it marginally ahead of Windows' 37.91 percent share for the first time, according to a new report by StatCounter, an independent Web analytics company.
'A Milestone in Technology History'
The study looked at overall Internet usage across all devices, including desktop, laptop, tablets, and mobile phones. The fact that Android, an operating system built for mobile devices, is now the most common platform individuals use to access the Internet represents a major shift in the way the world connects online, with the desktop finally being overtaken by mobile devices.
"This is a milestone in technology history and the end of an era," said Aodhan Cullen, CEO, StatCounter, in a statement. "It marks the end of Microsoft's leadership worldwide of the OS market which it has held since the 1980s. It also represents a major breakthrough for Android which held just 2.4 percent of global Internet usage share only five years ago."
Cullen said that the main drivers of the transition include the increased use of smartphones to access the Internet, a decline in sales of traditional PCs, and the impact of Asia on the global market.
Winning the Battle, Losing the War
But despite losing the number one spot in overall traffic, Windows still dominates the worldwide operating system desktop market, which includes desktops and laptops, with an 84 percent Internet usage share in March. However, that might be cold comfort for Microsoft if the statistics reflect an underlying shift in the way people use their devices.
"Windows won the desktop war but the battlefield moved on," said Cullen. "It will be difficult for Microsoft to make inroads in mobile but the next paradigm shift might give it the opportunity to regain dominance. That could be in augmented reality, AI, voice or continuum (a product that aims to replace a desktop and smartphone with a single Microsoft powered phone)."
In North America Windows (all versions) maintained its lead across all platforms with a 39.5 percent share of the market in March, followed by iOS with 25.7 percent and Android with 21.2 percent. The story is similar in Europe, where Windows again owns more than twice the share of the Internet market compared to Android, 51.7 percent to 23.6 percent.
Microsoft's biggest problem seems to be Asia, where consumers prefer Android to Windows devices 52.2 percent to 29.2 percent. Given the size and continued growth of the Asian IT market, the switch to Android is likely to remain a challenge for Microsoft, even as it maintains its dominance in more developed markets.