Move over Windows: Android is now the biggest OS in the world

In what might just be a ‘defining moment’ for computing across the globe, the rise and rise of smartphones means that Windows is no longer the most popular OS as measured by worldwide internet usage – having been ousted from pole position by Android.

Microsoft’s OS has led the global operating system arena since the 1980s, but according to StatCounter’s latest figures, for the first time ever, Android has taken the crown off Windows with March’s global internet usage market share (across PCs, tablets and phones).

Android is now on 37.93% of all devices, just edging out Windows which is on 37.91%. It’s only a sliver of difference, but a very telling milestone nonetheless – particularly when you consider that Google’s mobile OS has jumped to this level from a market share of just 2.4% five years ago.

This won’t really be a surprise to anyone, though, given that smartphone usage has rocketed in the past half-decade, with more and more people now surfing the web on their phones.

And of course desktop PCs have suffered a massive sales slump in that time, too, as we’ve heard via repeated statistics and reports laden with doom and gloom (although that said, the desktop computer market is making some slightly more positive noises just recently).

As for the other platforms behind Android and Windows, they would be iOS on 13.09%, and then OS X (macOS) on 5.17%.

Desktop colossus

Naturally, Windows is still a colossus when it comes to desktop operating systems in isolation, with an 84% total market share for the month just past.

But clearly, Microsoft must be worried regarding the march to mobile, with the apparent total failure of Windows to make an impact with phones – according to StatCounter, Windows-powered phones only account for 1% of all handsets worldwide, despite the firm’s ‘mobile-first’ mantra adopted when Satya Nadella took the helm.

Aodhan Cullen, chief executive at StatCounter, commented: “Windows won the desktop war but the battlefield moved on. 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).”

We’ve certainly seen in recent times that some of Microsoft’s key hopes are to push VR and mixed reality on a more affordable level, and big-up Cortana in a major way, including pushing the digital assistant in the smart home.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).