News by Andrew Kameka on Thursday February 14, 2013.
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Android is an operating system, but Galaxy is a brand. Just as people once mistakenly referred to all Android devices as DROIDs because of Verizon's massive marketing campaign, the Galaxy has become a brand as recognizable as the operating system that powers it.
The same dynamic is happening in Windows Phone 8. HTC, Nokia, and Samsung have all released Windows Phone 8 smartphones, but early anecdotal evidence and estimates from third parties suggest Nokia has the lion's share of the market. If someone has a Windows Phone handset, it's likely to be one of the colorful smartphones stamped with a Nokia logo.
IDC today released a report estimating that 497.1 million Android smartphones were sold in the fourth quarter of 2012, which was 68.8 percent of all smartphone sales. The company also noted that Samsung nabbed 42 percent, or 208.78 million smartphones, of all Android sales last year. Nokia had an even higher representation within Windows Phone; it accounted for 13.6 million of the 17.9 million Windows Phone smartphones sold last year.
Between Nokia's 76 percent of Windows Phone and Samsung's 42 percent of Android, the two smartphone platforms with multiple vendors are each dominated by one company. One company designs the hardware and then convinces customers that it's worth buying. If Samsung has a meteoric rise, so too does Android. If Nokia has modest gains, the same can be said for the overall health of Windows Phone.
Should Google and Microsoft be worried by one company's ability to affect its goals? Both would probably say they are not. Google's end game is to carpet bomb the smartphone market and have Android, which has its apps and services integrated into the operating system, in as many hands as possible. Whether those hands experience Android through HTC or Samsung is of little concern - at least for now. Windows Phone's market share is so small that Microsoft is concerned only with growth for the operating system, not if the growth comes from HTC or Nokia.
The current climate is no reason to panic, but that doesn't mean Google or Microsoft will always be pleased with current conditions. A slump in Samsung's smartphone sales would not be the end of the world, but it could put a noticeable dent in Android's growth. Google would love for its subsidiary Motorola, or other companies like HTC and LG, to release smartphones that could better compete with Galaxy. Microsoft has even more reason to fret because unless HTC and others pick up momentum this year, the health of Windows Phone 8 will be determined almost entirely by Nokia. Microsoft partnered with HTC to create the official Windows Phone 8 flagship device and Nokia still managed to be the top seller.
Both companies want success, but they would obviously prefer more diversity along the way. It doesn't appear that the Galaxy and Lumia are prepared to play second fiddle any time soon.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.