Google's decision to open source Android to multiple wireless handset makers has the mobile operating system poised to be No. 2 worldwide in short order.
Gartner released its smartphone operating system standings and has Android just behind Research in Motion with market share of 17.2 percent worldwide. RIM is hearing footsteps with 18.2 percent of the smartphone OS market. What's stunning about this leap is that Android's market share was 1.8 percent a year ago. In a year, Android has leapfrogged Apple's iOS. It doesn't take fancy analytics to project that Android will overtake RIM in two quarters.
According to Gartner, Android's non-exclusive distribution has propelled the OS. The strategy is similar to what Microsoft did in the desktop market-partner with a bevy of hardware players and flood the zone.
This Android march is benefiting some key handset makers such as HTC and Motorola, but not as much as you'd think. HTC is surging, but Android hardware vendors are going to kill each other with an innovation cycle that lasts weeks instead of months. HTC and Motorola are hot today, but Samsung could grab more share in a few months. Simply put, Android's success isn't going to translate to all mobile device makers.
Here's the global mobile device maker picture with today's primary Android players highlighted:
In the not-too-distant future, you'll be able to add LG and Sony Ericsson to the Android team. Add it up and Nokia has a big target on its back and no answers readily available. RIM will have to hope the BlackBerry OS 6 fuels sales. And Apple could care less about share since it's making a ton of dough, but don't rule out expansion plans via Verizon Wireless and other CDMA carriers.
Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and Editorial Director of TechRepublic.