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back to article Google: Android fragmentation not 'bad thing'

Google has defended its decision to allow unfettered Android tweaking, saying that although this may fragment the Googlephone market, it's what's best for developers. "Everybody talks about fragmentation as a bad thing, but I think you need to look at it from the perspective of the developer," Eric Chu, Google's group manager …

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Silver badge

Little pools of innovation are not a problem

If there is no room for fragmentation then you have to get all the competitors into a room to agree to a new feature. Those who don't want the feature to proceed (eg because it would make their product look lacking) can veto others. Innovation becomes slower.

Far better is to have some pools of innovation that can rapidly bring about new features. Some with die and some will conflict but at least things move forwards.

I don't know much about the Symbian Foundation structure, but perhaps it is dominated by Nokia making it easy to get consensus.

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Unhappy

Forwards not Backwards

Frankly it's forwards not backwards compatibilty that I care about as an end user. What will kill Android stone dead is when people see they can't upgrade to the latest firmware (which at some point may be being advertised on the TV) because their handset manufacturer decided to make some tweaks in the past which prevents it.

I own an android handset (Magic) but I'll be switching to Apple if I'm stuck with Eclair for the next twelve months. What a bizarre last sentence.

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Backwards compatibility

Backwards compatibility may be the goal but Google haven't managed it, even with their own applications. After the release of 1.6 to T-Mobile and Vodafone in the UK it was several days before their 'search-by-voice' app was updated so it didn't constantly crash under the new version of the O/S.

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WTF?

yeah but, no but

Symbian has been on millions of handsets for years and failed to get this huge developer community they're talking about.

With the iPhone and Android handsets gaining market share this quickly, it's them that's going to benefit from the devs - as iPhone clearly already has. I can't see Symbian getting anything but smaller for the time being at least, which is a shame as I've always bought Symbian (well, Nokia I suppose) and do like it.

I'm thinking of going Android and doing some dev work in my spare time now though, just need to find what I did with my spare time first...

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Bronze badge

U Turn

Of course Android is going to fragment. But this is the first time Google has admitted it.

And of course it's A Good Thing to have innovation and differentiated devices. The danger is that developers write for the core so as to get the volume and don't use the differentiating features.

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Anonymous Coward

Symbian's fucked

Unless they can get away from the horrible, out-of-date S60 interface. The default contacts is crap. The default calendar is crap. The pop-ups are close to Vista on the irritating scale and disturbingly weird and blocky. Horrible.

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Are you sure?

As a developer I do not want have to make apps for different handset manufacturers. This means I will have to buy the physical device which I cannot afford to do. It also means more time making the same product over and over when I could be making something new.

I think to say that developers want fragmentation is quite ignorant.

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Anonymous Coward

Governance models not the only reason for fragmentation

Symbian has a governance model and API compatibility testing schemes (on the way for new Symbian Foundation versions) which are aimed to ensure that differentiation of products doesn't become fragmentation for developers.

In theory makers of Android handsets could differentiate anywhere, including common developer APIs, but I don't see why they would want to, it just stops huge numbers of apps working properly on their device. It's a risk in theory, but certainly not Android's weakest point relative to Symbian. From what I hear, Anroid is more likely to fragment badly because Google don't take contributions form other OHA members at all rather than because they use a non-copyleft license and don't have an open source governance model. The other major reason to suspect fragmentation is because operators that use that platform won't want Google taking their business, so will want a differentiated version going forwards and possibly removal of some Google services. You certainly won't be able to get "standard" upgrades from Google on most phones in countries where a network subsidy model dominates.

For me the biggest issue with Android if I'm an OEM or an operator is "do I trust Google?". As a consumer my issues with Android are privacy (Google is spying on everything I do with my phone - I know that's happening if I've got a "Google Experience" device) and, for now at least, battery life. Not being able to go away for the weekend without a charger is a deal-breaker for me on Android and iPhone!

Yes, the Symbian touch UI is far from great and yes it is being replaced with a new version based on Qt. That's going to take more than a year to reach real products though, so it'll be interesting to see how it turns out and how the market develops in the mean time. Developers can start using Qt on Symbian much, much sooner though - it'll be in device firware starting next summer and can be retro-fitted to older devices fairly painlessly before then.

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RE: Forwards not Backwards

This might be a bad thing to admit to in an increasingly environmentally concious world -- but I couldn't give two hoots about backwards compatibility, since I upgrade my device every 12 to 18 months anyhow. The reason I do this is, I accept, partly due to new OSs -- but it is in the most part due to increased functionality and the fact that I'm paying T-Mobile to keep me on the latest device via my airtime contract.

You could argue that I'm in a minority -- but if I am it's a large one since virtually everyone I know who cares about mobile phones/devices does exactly the same.

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Anonymous Coward

fragmentation

Yup the problem I would face as a developer is having to develop for unique feature's from different manufacturers, that is something I would have no interest in doing due to limited resources.

While I understand that handset manufactures like to differentiate the phones they manufacture from the rest of the pack (understandable), they would also have to realize that most developers will develop for the core OS only and that the only people addressing the unique features of the handset they produce would be themselves or people they pay to do it.

If they want masses of developers to build on a platform they introduce then they would pretty much be forced to introduce that platform into the core OS at a future date.

I hope any different tech the manufactures introduce will be compatible with the core os and will allow developers who target the core os to run programs on the differentiated handsets they produce.

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@ AC 12:07 - battery life

At least you can take a spare battery with you for your Android, AFAIK, iPhone is one of the only new smartphones that does not allow you to change the battery!!

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Anonymous Coward

Not what the users want!

I have no problem with the developers wanting the freedom to innovate, but with that they must force dicipline and consistency in the design of what they do.

Users don't want every android phone to be different it's too confusing. The support elements of the mobile networks don't want them to be different either. The execs and the marketing people might, but the people who use them and support them dont.

Some of Google's comments are based on what the mobile industry used to be like, not what it should be. If the industry had any clue they would have invented the iphone for themselves years ago. Instead it took Apple to disrupt the flow of awful software on ok phones.

There's no problem with a few factions (e.g. KDE and Gnome) and there's certainly no problem with high level cusomization and adding apps. But when entire portions of the interfaces can be different and incommpatible they've gone too far.

If you let the devs and marketing people have their own way all the time you end up with a mess.

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Silver badge

re: DoI trust Google?

"Do I trust Google?" If you're going to be paranoid about that then I suggest you don't use a smart phone and don't use the the internet at all. Spend the money on tin foil.

Consistency of user experience doesn't just come from single vendors. I'll wager it is often easier to migrate between different Android phones than it is between phones within a single vendor's stables. I have 4 bottom end Nokias (1100, 1110 and 2 others). They all have completely different UIs.

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re: Symbian's fucked

"Unless they can get away from the horrible, out-of-date S60 interface."

I'm sure this is the reason Nokia bought QT. QT + Symbian could make for one beautiful mobile interface, but they need to do this sooner than later. They've already lost so much ground to Apple and Google that even Palm have managed to sneak up and overtake them.

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