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TBO
04-08-2010, 11:16
Report: Android fragmentation could harm growth


Google's Android operating system may be a victim of its own success.

More than 6 million handsets shipped in 2009 using Google's Android software (http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-20001788-265.html). And the forecast in 2010 is that this figure will triple with shipments possibly topping out at 20 million this year. But a new study from IMS Research indicates that the rapid pace of Android's growth could cause more fragmentation, which could ultimately harm Android's potential as a leading smartphone operating system.

The problem is that in going from the 1.5 version of the software to 2.1, Google has released four different versions of the software (http://www.cnet.com/8301-19736_1-20001733-251.html), which are incompatible with each other.

"Fragmentation is a concern first and foremost for developers (http://www.cnet.com/8301-19736_1-10469712-251.html)," Chris Schreck, an IMS Research analyst said in a statement. "Developer resources are notoriously limited, and adding incompatible strains within platforms to the already crowded smartphone OS space makes their uphill climb even steeper."

Schreck argued that Android's overall installed base is much smaller than the installed bases of other smartphone platforms. And when the market is further segmented with different versions of the same operating system, the opportunity for developers on any particular Android strain starts to look small.

"Without Google addressing this issue, Android developers are going to find themselves working harder to reach fewer people," he said.

The study also indicated that handset vendors and mobile network operators also suffer from fragmentation since the cost of maintaining investments in an operating system increases with each variation of the platform. For example, wireless operators and handset makers have to spend extra resources translating user interfaces, customizing applications, and making sure other software that comes preloaded on devices works across the entire product portfolio.

Google is rumored to be addressing the issue. (http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-20001368-265.html)For one, Google is expected to slow down the pace of major Android updates. There is also speculation that Google will allow consumers to upgrade their devices from the Android Marketplace, so that updates don't have to go through wireless operators.

It's unclear if these changes will solve the fragmentation issue. And IMS points to another issue that Google may not be able to address. The Apache software license, which Android uses, does not require licensees to contribute modifications of the Android platform back to Google. While the open source nature of Android is great for innovation, it also means that licensees can make changes to the platform on their own, which can fragment the market even further.

Schreck pointed out that Symbian and the Limo platform, also open source operating systems, are taking a harder line when it comes to what changes it allows to be made to the software. That should help alleviate some of the possible fragmentation issues on that platform.

"I expect Android to see considerable market share gains in the immediate and near future," Schreck said. "However, to keep up that pace of growth, particularly in the high end market, Google absolutely has to manage fragmentation."

link (http://news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-20002019-266.html?tag=newsLatestHeadlinesArea.0)

cgwahl
04-08-2010, 17:30
I admit, I haven't had a chance to really sit down and play with Android. But I see this as somewhat of a nonissue. Particularly the go your own way with the OS because of it being open source. The latter can actually be good sometimes. Cause they might incorporate stuff from an offshoot.


Yes, they've released a lot of versions in the same year, but they've also been playing catch up. And it's silly to hold off on a new feature for everyone to enjoy because they're worried about holding off new releases of Android.

IndyGunFreak
04-08-2010, 17:42
I admit, I haven't had a chance to really sit down and play with Android. But I see this as somewhat of a nonissue. Particularly the go your own way with the OS because of it being open source. The latter can actually be good sometimes. Cause they might incorporate stuff from an offshoot.


Yes, they've released a lot of versions in the same year, but they've also been playing catch up. And it's silly to hold off on a new feature for everyone to enjoy because they're worried about holding off new releases of Android.

Could they make the OS easily upgradeable? Like system updates on any other OS?

IGF

cgwahl
04-08-2010, 18:44
Could they make the OS easily upgradeable? Like system updates on any other OS?

IGF


"There is also speculation that Google will allow consumers to upgrade their devices from the Android Marketplace, so that updates don't have to go through wireless operators."


Sounds like that's what they're planning on doing. However, if Motorola for instance decides to make the OS their own way, it's probably not a good idea to upgrade...however, chances are if Motorola went their own way they would try to disable the "update" feature.


Realistically the only issue I see with this is people develop for the particular version, be it 1.6 or 1.7 and it's not usable on the next version that pops out...but we see that with Firefox every now and then with add-on's until they get it usable on the newer version, which is probably just as simple as a recompile...so, personally, non-issue.


Having said that, I could see a problem where you buy a program for 1 version, upgrade and then find out you're screwed. But that's a case where hopefully they'll offer free upgrades.

IndyGunFreak
04-08-2010, 19:27
"There is also speculation that Google will allow consumers to upgrade their devices from the Android Marketplace, so that updates don't have to go through wireless operators."


Sounds like that's what they're planning on doing. However, if Motorola for instance decides to make the OS their own way, it's probably not a good idea to upgrade...however, chances are if Motorola went their own way they would try to disable the "update" feature.


Realistically the only issue I see with this is people develop for the particular version, be it 1.6 or 1.7 and it's not usable on the next version that pops out...but we see that with Firefox every now and then with add-on's until they get it usable on the newer version, which is probably just as simple as a recompile...so, personally, non-issue.


Having said that, I could see a problem where you buy a program for 1 version, upgrade and then find out you're screwed. But that's a case where hopefully they'll offer free upgrades.

Being a Linux user, I understand what you're saying.

There was a brand of netbook that came out w/ a custom version of Linux based on RH.. the problem is, it was NEVER updated after the initial release and some security updates. Well, now those users are either hamstrung into using an old OS they can't upgrade, or installing a new OS and going it alone.

If they chose to just put the "Google version" on the phone, maybe include some apps or whatever they want to do.. this would allow their user base to just update w/ Google, and not require Motorola to maintain it.

The Android stuff sounds interesting though...

IGF

cgwahl
04-08-2010, 20:13
Being a Linux user, I understand what you're saying.

There was a brand of netbook that came out w/ a custom version of Linux based on RH.. the problem is, it was NEVER updated after the initial release and some security updates. Well, now those users are either hamstrung into using an old OS they can't upgrade, or installing a new OS and going it alone.

If they chose to just put the "Google version" on the phone, maybe include some apps or whatever they want to do.. this would allow their user base to just update w/ Google, and not require Motorola to maintain it.

The Android stuff sounds interesting though...

IGF


Yeah, open source can be a great thing, but at the same time can be it's own worst enemy. I hope that won't be an issue though. The last thing I want to see happen is phones becoming like the Sidekick (very closed off phone). I like Android over Blackberry cause a lot of the Blackberry API's you gotta pay to use...for instance if I make a program that uses the Blackberry Text Message API, I need to pay them $100+ so they can "approve" it. You can get around it by using J2ME. It's lame.


I almost wonder if Android is still considered Beta though. It could be a good excuse for them popping out with so many versions...at the same time could suck since you have methods that existed in one version which no longer exist or were made obsolete in the next. But in the end I see that more as an annoyance that an, "I'm going to stop developing for Android."



And Android apparently uses a modified version of a Linux kernal, so three cheers for the penguin...heh.