Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2011: The Year Android Takes Over

If you have been watching over the past year, you've seen Android making enormous strides. Here's the numbers to really drive that home: Android has just displaced Nokia as the top smartphone seller, as of the December quarter. Android sold 32.9 million handsets in three months versus Nokia's 31 million. Not bad when you consider that the year before Android had about 4 million handsets sold in that time. Zoom. The trend for 2011 is looking even healthier; you can expect somewhere north of 150 million Android phones to be sold this year.

Which is a great market... if the market is a good one. Which it hasn't been, to this point. The Android Market has lacked many of the basic tools for finding and promoting apps, even the relatively crappy ones the iTunes store offers. Well, Google's finally had a press conference, and guess what: The Android Market finally gets a web store. This is going to really help move Android Apps, because up until now there has not been one official place where you could see information about all apps. Individual developers would have to rely on their web pages, which is just not as good as getting traffic through the place you know every Android user will venture.

Not only that, Android will finally get in-app purchasing, the feature that's now accounting for half the revenue in the iPhone market. Hopefully this and other features should start to narrow the gap between iOS and Android app revenue for developers. Heck, even Google has not been happy with the Android Market's purchase rates.

The news just gets better for Android, as Google showed off their new Android 3.0 Honeycomb release, which has (finally) been designed to work and play well with a tablet form factor. Here's the short review: Android 3.0 for tablets rocks. The consensus seems to be it's the first serious iPad competition, at least when looking at a Motorola Xoom tablet running Honeycomb. After a whole bunch of lame tablet efforts, we will finally see an Android tablet worthy to compete with the iPad.

Which just means that the iPad 2 announcement must be coming up soon. Nothing seems to delight Apple more than to have their competitor show their hand, then lay down theirs and take the pot. I expect Apple will announce the iPad 2 in the next month or two, and it will put them firmly in the leadership position. Which just means that Android tablets will have to be reasonably priced to compete, which is good for everybody (since it will help hold Apple's prices down, too).

That's not even the end of the Android news: If anyone had any doubts that Google TV would eventually sell games, the fact that there's a Google seminar about games on Smart TVs at the upcoming GDC should dispel any doubts. I'm sure the current lame implementations of Google TV will seriously improve this year, and hopefully Apple has been working on making Apple TV better, too. This is the year console games need to step up their efforts, because some serious competition is coming.

Related to that, more Flash developers are looking to develop Android games, according to this report. Notably, only 5% of the Flash developers they surveyed make more than $500 a month from their games. No wonder 52% of them plan to make Android games this year.

Overall, it looks like a good year for Android. Not so good for Nokia and RIM, who continue to wander aimlessly in search of strategy that works. (Note to RIM: Producing a tablet, even a pretty cool one like the Playbook, that requires a Blackberry with it in order to access email, means you'll never sell one to someone who isn't already a Blackberry owner. Aren't you interested in expanding your market?) And poor Microsoft, whose Windows Phone 7 is out there with no one paying attention... and HP, whose WebOS is about to be re-introduced... will they find a place in the market?

2011 is going to be a very interesting year.

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