Android Overtakes Windows as Top Operating System on the Internet

The 2017 first quarter marked the first time since the 1980s that Microsoft Windows hasn't been the most widely-used operating system in the world.

Android Grabs Top Spot

Google’s Android is now the most widely used operating system on the planet in terms of Internet usage.

Numbers released this week by StatCounter show that Android nudged out Microsoft’s Windows from the top spot in worldwide market share for operating systems.

In March, Android had a share of 37.93 percent compared to Microsoft’s 37.91 percent.  It marked the first time since the 1980s that Microsoft has not held the leadership position in the operating system market worldwide.

“It also represents a major breakthrough for Android which held just 2.4 percent of global Internet usage share only five years ago,” StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen said in a statement announcing the latest numbers. At that time, Windows held an 82 percent share of the Internet usage market globally. Apple’s iOS and macOS operating systems meanwhile have remained fairly steady in terms of market share over the same period.

Android’s rise to the top is not unexpected. The operating system has been gaining ground on Windows over the past few years and moved within striking distance of the top spot last month when it garnered a 37.4 percent share compared to Microsoft’s 38.6 percent.

Much of Android’s growth has come from the proliferating use of mobile phones around the world and a coinciding decline in desktop use in recent years.  

Recently released numbers from Gartner showed Android extending its lead in the total market for mobile operating systems in the fourth quarter of 2016 with an 82 percent market share. For the whole year, Android grew its presence by 3.2 percent to reach a nearly 85 percent market share. According to the analyst firm, Android was the only operating system to grow on a year over year basis in 2016.

The Asian mobile device market in particular has played a key role in propelling Android to the top. StatCounter’s latest numbers reveal that Android had a 52.2 percent market share in Asia compared to 29.2 percent for Windows across all platforms.

Windows however continues to lead in both the U.S. and Europe. In North America for instance, Windows with a 39.5 percent share led all other operating systems in March. iOS was in second place with a 25.7 percent share followed by Android with 21.2 percent. The situation is similar in Europe where Windows’ 51.7 percent market is more than double the 23.6 percent held by Android.

Windows also continues to dominate the operating system market for desktops and laptop computers with a commanding 84 percent share.

“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,” he said referring to emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.