Android Tops in Q4 2010… What Does This Mean for mLearning?

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A report published by analytics firm Canalys has placed Android ahead of all smartphone platforms in sales for Q4 2010, including Symbian. From the report:

Shipments of Android-based smart phones reached 32.9 million, while devices running Nokia’s Symbian platform trailed slightly at 31.0 million worldwide.

This is big news in the world of mobile in general, of course. This sort of pace wasn’t even in the projections we’ve been hearing for some time from various sources. Most of these projections didn’t have this sort of success planned for Android until 2012 or even later. While outpacing iOS devices seems logical due to them being a single handset manufacturer on, until recently, a single carrier, going up against the very expansive Symbian ecosystem and outselling them is a big, big deal.

This definitely is a dramatic result in the mobile world as a whole, but what does this mean for mobile learning? Let’s extrapolate a bit about how this may impact a corporate L&D department that is building a mobile learning strategy.

  1. Much like it is with iOS, corporate adoption will be slow, but will happen. IT didn’t want iPhones in the office space. Blackberries and Windows Phones are easier to manage, easier to provision and lock down. Users are less likely to use apps or browse the web on these phones. It’s simply neat and clean to maintain, upgrade and support. Eventually though, execs and managers bought iPhones due to their ease of use and sex appeal and IT was faced with the need to support them. Apple has gone through phases ignoring this (with iOS 1-2), to accepting this fact (with iOS 3), to actively supporting it in the most recent builds of their OS. There is something similar playing out with Android, though we are quick to admit that Google’s reliance on Google accounts and apps is a big stumbling block to getting into the Fortune 500.
  2. Android must be considered as a delivery platform for learning. Simply targeting iOS is likely not going to be good enough in the very near future. This is important to note, because often with eLearning, modules are meant to be built to work for years, not months. Mobile product cycles are about 1/3 the lifespan of a typical learning module.
  3. Mobile apps are going to get very expensive to support in a typical environment, or cross platform toolkits are going to have to get a lot better. No learning development team is going to develop both native ObjC and Android/Java apps. Not only do they likely not have the skills in-house, they simply won’t be able to afford the outside expertise for every single app or module they want to bring online. Appcelerator and PhoneGap are great starts, but for major enterprises, often open source dev frameworks like PhoneGap are seen as amateurish (This opinion is not necessarily shared by Float, by the way.)
  4. Mobile web and mobile web development frameworks are going to continue to look more and more attractive as enterprises are faced with the fragmentation of their user base. JQuery Mobile, Sencha and other frameworks do a great job of bring rich deep features to class A devices. Learning developers, already likely capable with ActionScript and JavaScript will flock like moths to flame upon trying out these addictive and fun tools.

In the end though, all this competition is great for the industry and in turn great for mobile learning! After all, more capable devices in more people’s hands will lead to more learners out there using your learning! More productive, more safe, and more happy people to access your content. So, how about you? Do you have your eye on Android in the enterprise learning environment?

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As managing director of Float, Chad Udell designs, develops and manages interactive Web and mobile projects. Chad has worked with industry-leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to concept, design and develop award-winning experiences. Chad is recognized as an expert in mobile design and development, and he speaks regularly at national and international events and conferences on related topics. In 2012, Chad released his first book, “Learning Everywhere: How Mobile Content Strategies Are Transforming Training.” In 2014, he co-edited the book, “Mastering Mobile Learning: Tips and Techniques for Success” with Dr. Gary Woodill, Ed.D.

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On January 31, 2011
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