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back to article Google Android future haunted by fragmentation past

With four billion connected mobile phones on the planet - compared to one billion PCs - handhelds offer developers the mother of all opportunities: ubiquity and mass market. But the reward comes at a great price: market fragmentation, thanks to so many different devices using so many different hardware configurations. To bridge …

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Time to Panic?

As a user and (potential) developer, Android's a really cool O/S and it gives users plenty of scope for installing applications on their phones (though just how many additional applications do you need to add before what you're running is a computer that's sometimes a phone rather than a phone with added functionality?).

To see this assumption that anything will run on any hardware platform lost will greatly reduce its utility but short of going down the Apple road of complete control over both software and hardware it's difficult to see how to avoid the fragmentation - Android's open so if a manufacturer is willing to spend the time and resources to customise it without any input from Google - something that phone companies are probably better able to do than PC manufacturers, then there's probably not much that anyone can do. It'll be up to the market to decide whether interoperability is a good thing or whether we'll be seduced by individual manufacturers' latest bit of flashy technology (though these have a habit of rapidly becoming mainstream must haves :-))

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Grenade

thanx g0d for WindowsMobile ;)

thanx g0d for WindowsMobile ;)

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Thumb Down

Typical Motorola

The just keep fucking things up and once they fuck this up they'll no doubt move to another OS, or hopefully just quit the mobile phone business altogether.

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Boffin

Fragmentation

I remember going to an Android developer day held at Google in London prior to Android actually being released (so no handsets). One of the major problems people the audience kept bringing up was fragmentation of Android - with each manufacturer doing things different.

So, it's not like it wasn't obvious it was going to happen!

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FAIL

@James 47

Yup. I agree entirely. Motorola had a really shoddy J2ME implementation and didn't give a s**t about bugs. I have always been aggrieved by the way that developers are supposed to bend over and take it by "verifying" their applications on different, supposedly-standards-compliant handsets, yet handset manufacturers produce any old s**te and it's just accepted. What kind of inadequate testing allows them to release devices like that?

Gavin summed fragmentation up really well though: "a positive plus in the world of telecoms because it prevented developers and customers switching and provided lock-in"

Finally, I don't really understand why Motorola is fighting against the tide here. From what I've read recently, their business is deflating like an old party balloon. Surely separating themselves further isn't going to help that.

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FAIL

Not really a surprise is it?

Phone makers love to differentiate on UI look and feel, bundled apps, and their own pet cheap HW platform. It's an almost impossible task to accomodate all those differentiating factors and arrive at a common base. Though, to be fair I had thought that the sheer force of Google's will (ie $$$) would be the one thing to carry Android through. Time will tell, once the Motos are in the wild (if they ever make it that far :-/ ) Hopefully once they get a few returns, because a significant % of the Android Apps don't work on customer's handsets, it'll bust 'em or bring them into line...

@John Fairhurst

It's a very blurred line these days, but I think the difference, the key difference, between a computer and a phone is in the usage of the device, and this dictates the sort of apps that you are likely going to want to install/run on each device.

@James 47

Well, let's see. They're about 9 months or so into this new 'bet it all on Android' strategy, so history shows us they've got about 8 months before they change their minds and try something completely different, burning a few more $$$millions of their investors' money in the process. :-/

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Jobs Horns

who cares ?

The iPhone has applications, OS upgrades that work on older phones and application compatibility across the line. Who cares about what the competition is doing. If Android ends up srewed up, I will get an iPhone.

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Stop

Android Fears

As an owner of a UK Vodafone HTC Magic and developer for android, I find it almost pointless that phone manufacturers insist on providing additional features.

Android as a platform was designed to allow 3rd party develoopers a chance to fill in any missing gaps in terms of usability by the end-user. Having a manufacturer develop and then maintain their own set of UI controls, additional features or customised pieces of the API only serve to limit the amount of additional work that can be completed.

Not only does it reduce the amount of marketable content for developers, but it also implies additional costs will be met by companies such as HTC and Samsung. Why spend more money developing changes to an Open Source platform when another developer can provide the same features, focus on them and produce high quality code as their core business target?

If we see a true divergence of the Android source, I will be sorely disappointed, as is stated in the article, Android is the closest we could get to a homogenous Java-based mobile OS.

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Anonymous Coward

@David Farinic

David Farinic wrote: "thanx g0d for WindowsMobile ;)"

Two points:

1, If there is any proof that there is a god, I have not seen it

2, If there is any reason to than anyone for anything made by MS, I have not seen it.

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Anonymous Coward

Fragmentation inevitable.

Handset makers already have a tough time trying to differentiate their products so they're not going to want a user interface that makes their phone look like any other once you turn it on. From this perspective, fragmentation is inevitable. Look at the 3 most promising smartphone companies (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/18/microsoft_mobile_irrelevancy/): Apple, RIM and Palm, what do they all have in common? A proprietary OS on their products.

Developers might like the idea that their apps reach the maximum amount of handsets because they all work pretty much the same, but that generic view of the handsets is precisely what handset makers are trying to combat.

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Paris Hilton

@James 47

No doubt when the fuck this up they will go back to Linux, then when they fuck that up again they will go back to Symbian, and when they fuck that up again ... well you get the idea.

I think the term is 'death spiral'

Paris because they might be better off with her in charge.

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WTF?

Ever actually tried it?

As someone who has actually developed for Android, I'm confused. I think the writer may have misunderstood Google's comments. There may be some Motorola-phone-specific applications developed by Motorola, but I don't know anyone that develops outside of the standard Android API. Just like J2EE developers almost never use WebSphere components, Android developers aren't likely to use HTC components. It restricts your market share and is bad for business.

It seems to me that DiBona was talking about giving the handset makers an API robust and complete enough that they wouldn't feel the need to expand it for their own applications. There are also some relatively hardware-specific functions like 3D acceleration that will probably need some work.

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FAIL

Motorola = FAIL

Motorola are incapable of writing a coherent front end, so any Android phones from them will lead to unusable fail.

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Boffin

@David Farinic

And WinMo has already had the interface replaced by HTC when they released TouchFlo.

At least so far the hardware is similar enough so if the manufacturer makes an android rom that people don't like there are usually ways to flash it back to a standard google rom or a modified one such as CyanogenMod.

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So what handset IS worth it

I've been after something for a while. First N97 - nope not a great handset from the reviews, HTC TouchPro 2 - WinMo and something doesn't feel quite right and from previous HTC experience I'm concerned the processor isn't up to it.

So I fell for the concept of Android. The question is what handset is worth it that's going to be around in the next 2/3 months? Everything seems a bit underpowered and sluggish from what I've read. If money was no object what's the one worth waiting for?

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Anonymous Coward

@Disco

So far, the Samsung I7500 looks like the best choice for Android. Powerful and most probably decent battery life compared to most fo the HTC choices. (I am an HTC Magic owner)

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FAIL

Phone quality is beyond crap

Most of the phones I've used, even the simple ones, managed to have their system crash on a regular (if not daily, thanks Sony !) basis. Whatever the brand The quality of those products is just atrocious. Even Microsoft never released anything this shoddy.

The best way to break Linux is to give it to phone manufacturers. Those people will wreck anything.

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