Is Android fragmented or is this the new rate of innovation?


Entelligence is a column by technology strategist and author Michael Gartenberg, a man whose desire for a delicious cup of coffee and a quality New York bagel is dwarfed only by his passion for tech. In these articles, he’ll explore where our industry is and where it’s going — on both micro and macro levels — with the unique wit and insight only he can provide.

A few weeks ago I sat down with the father of Android, Andy Rubin. Andy’s a super smart person, having done stints at Apple, General Magic, WebTV and Danger before starting the Android project. We talked about a lot of things, and we particularly spent time discussing Android fragmentation. I’ve written in the past about my concern that the Android platform is fragmenting much like desktop Linux has over the years, and the potential for the platform to turn into a patchwork of devices and vendor specific modifications that bear little relationship with each other. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my conversation with Andy, and I’ve rewritten this column more than a few times as a result.

Today, there are at least five different versions of Android on the market. Many of them are highly customized to allow for new features and device differentiation, but that same customization also makes it harder for vendors to update them to the latest versions. New releases and versions of Android are often outdated by newer versions in the span of just a few weeks. For example, the Nexus One when released was capable of running apps like Google Earth that devices such as the Droid could not, because it ran Android 2.0, not 2.1.Tablet vendors complain their Android offerings lack features such as Android Market because Google forbids them to install the marketplace app, forcing them to create proprietary alternatives. It would appear Android is indeed fragmenting — but perhaps there are other forces at work.

When I spoke with Andy, he pointed out there are several classical symptoms of platform fragmentation. First, older APIs no longer work and break in new releases. Second, multiple application marketplaces offer different applications that lack uniformity across platforms. Both of these are true when you look at desktop Linux. Neither are true of Android.

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Entelligence: Is Android fragmented or is this the new rate of innovation? originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 22 May 2010 20:21:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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By: Dr. Augustine Fou Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 news

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