Android some day will outdistance the iPhone

One firm predicts 900% growth for Android in '09, citing its support from phone makers, open source structure

Strategy predicted that iPhone shipments, based on an OS X variant, will grow by 79% in 2009, which sounds small compared with the Android projected growth, but is still very healthy. Longer term, however, Apple Inc. will not license the manufacturing of iPhone to other makers, which will restrict its potential to grow as well as Android devices.

"Android definitely has the potential to surpass iPhone in shipments," Spektor said. "When you have one device from one vendor like Apple, it's silly to think they will forever dominate the landscape."

Kevin Burden, an analyst at ABI Research in New York, called Strategy's forecast for Android "aggressive," and said his firm expects nearly 4 million Android units to be sold in 2009, and another 7 million in 2010. With only two models announced at this point, Android would have to accelerate quickly to reach 8 million in 2009, he said.

Huawei could sell good volumes of Android devices in China later in the year, and possibly elsewhere, but still not enough to reach the figures Strategy is predicting, Burden said.

Burden said his more conservative forecast shows the promise of Android and its potential to outsell the iPhone. "Could Android overtake iPhone? Absolutely. And I expect it will at some point because it is licensable by a variety of manufacturers. Meanwhile, Apple will never license the OS X variant."

The challenge for Android might become fragmentation, as device makers release different Android models. Some will be high-end smartphones but thers will sell at the low end, Burden said. Meanwhile, the Palm Pre, which is due from Sprint Nextel Inc. before the end of June, faces the same long-term fate of the iPhone since the Pre is also made by one company, he noted.

ABI said 21.2 million iPhones shipped through the first quarter of 2009, including 3.7 million in 2007 and 13.7 million in all of 2008, as well as 3.8 million in the first quarter of 2009.

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