back to article Google to devs: Fragmenting Android is AGAINST THE RULES

Android developers often complain about fragmentation of the platform, and Google apparently agrees – so much so that it's written an anti-fragmentation clause into the license terms of the latest Android SDK (software development kit). Under Section 3.4 of Google's new terms and conditions, "You agree that you will not take any …

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Bronze badge

Hard to take this seriously.

Oracle probably wishes Google would do the same for Java.

There is some stuff that is extremely difficult to do without a 3rd party NDK. (Which obviously needs to use the sdk somewhat in order to work.)

The OEM's are the problem when it comes to fragmenting Android anyway not dev's.

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There is also the case of just building the SDK from the AOSP. What then have they introduced restrictions so that you cannot do what you want with it any more.

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This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

There are more and more very low end Android-based phones sold in China that don't have any Google search, maps, or other advertising/revenue producing bits included. Google makes no money from them, they don't like that. Google wants these guys to do their own development if they aren't going to share in the revenue.

So now these Chinese OEMs will have to design their own software from scratch, though perhaps more likely they'll just fork Android 4.1 since it had the old license. They'll probably all be greedy and do their own forks so they can collect the revenue, so these will eventually be incompatible with each other, as well as incompatible with Android.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

Your post doesn't make sense. Android is open source - the cheap Chinese hardware can use and install Android and is completely welcome to do that. This clause wouldn't affect them.

The clause is for the SDK being used with non-AOSP based OSes. Ones that have been forked or derived.

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Big Brother

Re: This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

@AC 22:47

But this license, as it's written,also forbids any company who forks AOSP from using the SDK e.g to develop Android software.

This is going to be very interesting. For example Amazon is now not licensed to use the SDK to develop their Android Kindle app.

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Re: This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

The ENTIRE POINT of Android is to funnel information to Google. I have several Android devices and much of the functionality is just not there unless you open/use various Google services. Obviously, having spent the money, Google doesn't want people to strip all the Google crap out.

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Meh

Re: This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

I wouldn't call it crap, and why are you assuming Google is developing and spreading Android for free? Of course the end result has to be revenue, or are you that naive?

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JDC

Re: This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

It's not all crap - Maps, GMail and the like are excellent - but why can't I uninstall Goggles, Facebook, Books, etc. etc. without rooting my phone?

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Boffin

Re: This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

"why can't I uninstall Goggles, Facebook, Books, etc. etc. without rooting my phone?"

Because your handset manufacturer put it into the ROM.

To be fair to Google, in Android 4 and above you can "disable" these apps so they don't start services, don't take up RAM and don't appear in your launcher menus. You can't remove them entirely from the phone as it's pointless - they're not installed in user-modifiable storage and wouldn't give you any more space for apps if you were to remove them.

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Boffin

Re: This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

Pretty sure that app disabling is only in Android 4.1.x, it isn't in 4.0.x...

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Re: This is all about Chinese OEMs cutting Google out of the revenue pie

Pretty sure that app disabling is only in Android 4.1.x, it isn't in 4.0.x...

Nope it's in 4.0.x. Search for "disable" in http://developer.android.com/about/versions/android-4.0-highlights.html

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: That's naughty...

The SDK and kernel are two separate bodies of code. The what the kernel's licence says is a complete irrelevance to the licensing of something else.

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Re: That's naughty...

Difficult to believe that the whole SDK doesn't include some GP code/tools though

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Facepalm

Shutting the stable door...

...after the horse has bolted?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shutting the stable door...

Indeed. This is the start of the Google lock down.

Whlle the user experience on the top of the range devices is good, it's not so good lower down. Which is probably why Google is making high end handsets so cheap.

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wrong target?

When Samsung and AT&T between them can delay updates by more than a year, does it make sense to blame developers for the fragmentation?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: wrong target?

Delay? let's forget the phones that have been promised an upgrade then abandonded on a lower version and let's not leave Motorola out of the list either

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But Amazon have already fragmented Android

Remember the Kindle Fire is the most successful Android tablet on the market...

I therefore wonder whether Google are trying to prevent others taking 4.2 and building on it to the extent that they undermine Google's attempts at releasing 5, 6, etc.

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RAM issue

Is there a RAM issue with running newer versions of Android on old devices? Do 4.0, 4.1, 4.2 all run nicely on a device with only 512 Meg? Updating to get new features is nice, but not so much if the update makes the device slow, or have failing apps all the time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RAM issue

Bingo. Not just a RAM issue but a processor issue as well. The pace of mobile OS and hardware development is staggering. Your PC might start to feel out of date after a couple of years, your mobile within a couple of months. This is what confuses me when analysts point out that half of Android phones still run 2.3. It's kind of like looking at the PC market, seeing that most people are still using Pentium II machines and then wondering aloud why they insist on using Windows 98 when the much more modern Windows 7 is available.

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Re: RAM issue

Jelly Bean (in the form of CyanogenMod 10) runs quite nicely on my creaky old Galaxy S.

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Meh

Re: RAM issue? Not exactly, nor CPU.

Everyone BSs you and me about this stuff. Here's what I mean:

Nexus S vs Infuse 4G - Current situation.

Infuse runs Gingerbread as of April. Official, legit, no hacks/roots/nada. TouchWiz because it's Sammy, and so on.

Nexus S now has JellyBean available. Also legit and official. No Touchwiz, even though it's Sammy too, since it's the Nexus brand.

Both have 512MB RAM, and Hummingbird Cortex A8 processors, but the Infuse has a 1.2Ghz while the Nexus S is a 1.0Ghz.

In reality, the other specs of the phones have no relevance to the question of compatibility and power for the OS version. That leaves us with a clear reason why the older phones get left behind: $$$$$

All the carriers want you to buy a new phone every whenever-you-sneeze, because that's more money for them, either through cancellation fees, non-subsidized purchases, or contract-extensions. The phone makers want it, too, because that's more $ for them also.

Why would the combined might of AT&T and Samsung, or Verizon and Motorola, or whoever you care to think about, want me to be able to easily upgrade my early 2011 phone to Jelly Bean, or even ICS, when they've got their precious Galaxy S Eleventy, Droid Razr Super HemiMax H3D to sell you on?

No, this is one area where Apple has it right. Apple controls its hardware, and the carriers bow to Jobspawn. What Google needs to do to kill fragmentation is implement a policy something like this:

"All phones of XYZ minimum specs (mostly CPU & RAM defined) must have an official upgrade available for users to install that will update the device to the new OS version within three (3) months of the version's official release date."

Then there needs to be some sort of penalty for non-compliance.

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Re: RAM issue? Not exactly, nor CPU.

"All phones of XYZ minimum specs (mostly CPU & RAM defined) must have an official upgrade available for users to install that will update the device to the new OS version within three (3) months of the version's official release date OR ALL RELEVANT DEVELOPMENT MATERIALS MADE AVAILABLE FOR THE COMMUNITY TO DEVELOP THE UPGRADE." (or words to that effect).

Handset manufacturers will not accept being forced to upgrade their 3-year-old handsets, especially if it requires significant development effort. However, the developer community puts in huge amounts of effort to back fit ROMs to older devices. These are often very successful, in spite of having to work around gaps.

If the mfrs were forced to release source and specific components (where they are not allowed to release source) to the community to aid them in porting new versions, things would happen faster and the ROMs would be more stable and feature-complete. Minimal effort is required from the mfrs and they may accept this as a compomise.

Either that, or make them develop the underlying parts which are specific to the device to allow generic upgrades direct from Google. This would, however, require work on Googles part to ensure the upgrade will not break things.

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Re: RAM issue? Not exactly, nor CPU.

Ive tried ICS and JB but ive still gone back to GB for my S2. JB was a train wreck of battery suckage. ICS had a few glitches. GB was stable and happy. From an OS point of view there were no substantial differences for me. Not the same as moving from 98 ->2k->xp->W7 for instance.

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Anonymous Coward

Older hardware not capable of newer Android versions

I had to replace my Samsung Spica (i5700) running 2.2, as it struggled with later versions (too little Flash & RAM mainly).

There are plenty of phones in this situation, so whilst they are still being used, stats won't change too quickly.

Kind of obvious really, just as early iPhones don't run iOS 5.x or 6.x.

In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S (i9000) replacement is running 4.1.2 fine.

:-)

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Contradictions?

Google are talking about less fragmentation? What's this page all about then if it isn't a wholehearted embracing of fragmentation?

http://developer.android.com/distribute/googleplay/quality/tablet.html

Yes, that's a fairly lengthy list of issues that Google reckon you should deal with when developing an app. And they suggest that you go and buy one of each of the major Android tablets and set up a host of simulated devices just so that you can test your app. I presume that that little setup should all be replicated for each significant version of Android too, just in case.

Honestly, how many devs are actually going to go through all that? I bet that most try their app on no more than a Samsung something or other, and perhaps one other.

No wonder developing for iOS is more popular.

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Forking the SDK was essential

Last time I tried to code for Androoid - which was a couple of years ago now - the official Google SDK didn't support exceptions in C++ code. Luckily, some clever bloke had made a fork of it that did, and I (and lots of other developers) used that instead. The code was entirely compatible with Google-compiled code, as logn as you didn't try to throw exceptions from one to the other.

Why on earth would Google want to stop that?

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Re: Forking the SDK was essential: possible explanation

It's fairly normal to not have exceptions on small low power embedded systems; it saves a little bit of memory, power and performance. Perhaps Google had this in mind when they setup their SDK. However in my experience it's normally a setting for the developer to choose, not some fixed configuration. It's a bit odd of Google to have switched them off entirely...

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Big Brother

Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

I find this quite a disconcerting development, and one that I hope the media like El Reg will stay on top of. Especially given that it seems these days that the Google corporate monster has legions of fanboys who will never dare criticise it (particularly within the dominant American tech media).

It is the second decade of the 21st century, and it seems rather ridiculous to me that we are still acting as if it is acceptable for a single large corporation to gain so much control over the world's mobile computing (especially a large tax-dodging American corporation).

We do not need Google controlling all with poor bluffs as excuses such as "fragmentation" -- what we urgently need is an open interoperable standard for mobile applications, in the same way we have numerous interoperable standards and standards bodies for just about every other aspect of technology. All the major OEMs (not just e.g. Amazon or Acer operating alone) need to get together urgently and create a standardised fork of Android which puts no one large company in control (it would be even sweeter if both Oracle and Nokia were part of it too). We also need a viable competitor to Google Play which does not lock the user into Google and their ridiculous 30% cut as does the DRM on most paid apps today (perhaps a model to persuade both users and developers jump across could be to offer a guaranteed DRM-free app store whereby the developer also gets a greater cut of sales).

tl;dr:

FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK! FORK!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

"It is the second decade of the 21st century, and it seems rather ridiculous to me that we are still acting as if it is acceptable for a single large corporation to gain so much control over the world's mobile computing (especially a large tax-dodging American corporation)."

I thought you were talking about Apple there for a second. Fortunately the following paragraph made clear where your diatribe was directed. Still, not sure why you singled out Google, since Apple seems also to fit your description. Maybe we should have just one mobile OS designed and approved by a United Nations committee. That should keep everyone happy (well, maybe not the corporations, or the customers, but who cares about them?)

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Big Brother

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

I despise Apple as much as everyone else. The problem is that the (justified IMO) hatred of Apple means too many are bringing Apple into conversation when we aren't talking about them, and allowing Apple's evil nature to cloud their judgement when seeing Google as being able to do no wrong. Apple are toast --the writing was on the wall for Apple from the start as it is obvious that their blunt in-your-face lock-in model could never be more than a niche in the long-term -- today Android is already at 75% and this Google dominance can only increase further.

Google worries me much more especially because of the insidious nature of Google's lock-in tactics, which most consumers (and indeed journalists in the tech media who should know better) will be completely unaware of until they buy a device a few years in the future. Apart from the dubious reputation on privacy and the forced use of Google services for location awareness and backup etc., one aspect that most concerns me is application DRM, meaning that in 5 years time when there is a good fork of Android out there, most user's paid apps will not be compatible due to being DRM-locked to the Google Play Store which will not be legally permitted on their devices.

You may have thought yourself as being witty by bringing in your sarcastic "UN" comment, but "open" is exactly what Android is falsely sold as being, and you are foolish if you think that a platform controlled by a Google monopoly is good for consumers. You are also talking as if other standards bodies do not exist in the tech industry, despite almost all modern tech being built on standards governed by the IEEE, ISO, W3C, IET, ANSI, BSI, GSMA, 3GPP, MPEG, ECMA etc. etc. etc. We have reached the stage in Application Platform design where said designs are mature and modular enough so that not much more innovation (aka "fragmentation") is necessary and that the OS and application platform need to get out of the way and become internationally standardised.

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Silver badge

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

That's a fine idea in theory, but what is the motivation for, say, Samsung to take part in this? If there's no one in control of the software and apps, and thus no one can make much profit from that, the hardware is the only way you can differentiate. Ask HP and Dell how the "differentiate based on hardware only" thing is working out for them in the PC market these days. I think they make money at it, but nothing remotely close to what Apple and Samsung are making selling phones.

Sure, today, Samsung is winning the hardware battle and dominating in the Android market, but there aren't Samsung fanboys, just as there aren't Dell fanboys. There are Android fanboys, but they are fickle, and have no reason to choose Samsung for their next phone just because they did with their last one. Ask Motorola how sticky their Droid customers were who went with the Samsung GS3 this time around. No reason they wouldn't go with HTC next time around if they've got the best hardware, or maybe some Chinese company no one has heard of.

The problem is that at some point the hardware design innovation stagnates, as has happened with the PC market. We're nearing the point where you can't make screens any bigger, adding more cores is pointless, screens have a high enough dpi, phones can't be made much thinner, there are no more questionable gimmicks like wireless charging to add, so everyone is doing pretty much the same variations on basic themes just like in the PC market. Once the innovation becomes mostly about the software and everyone's hardware is "good enough", no one pays the kind of premiums Samsung is getting on the Galaxy series today in a competitive market.

Samsung wants to avoid this, which is why they're trying to differentiate on the software and ecosystem where possible, to make their customer base stickier. Their Touchwiz or whatever its called layer, S Voice instead of Google's offering, proprietary stuff like S Beam that works only with their hardware, working on developing their own music service, and probably their own app store at some point.

If they forked Android tomorrow, how many people would notice, or care? The type of people who read the Reg and other tech sites and hate Apple for its lock-in (among other things) would probably be up arms, but that's only a few percent of people. The average person doesn't know what "Android" is, they buy whatever phone looks the best to them, is a good deal, their friends are using, they see advertised, etc. They don't know what "forking" is, and their eyes would glaze over if you tried to explain it to them and why they should care and let it influence their decision whether or not to buy a Samsung phone.

The larger Samsung can grow their customer base, the greater the chance of them doing this - because why give revenue to Google that they could take for themselves? Why risk HTC or Motorola coming out with the next must-have Android phone and Samsung's market share plummeting? This change by Google might make them decide to fork sooner rather than later.

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Thumb Up

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

@Paul 135:

"You may have thought yourself as being witty by bringing in your sarcastic "UN" comment, but "open" is exactly what Android is falsely sold as being, and you are foolish if you think that a platform controlled by a Google monopoly is good for consumers."

I remember someone called Steve Jobs saying the Android wasn't open. Not that I think favourably of Mr Jobs, he was just using it as a justification for their own very blatant lock in model....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

Google fans seem to be as bad a Apple cultists in being critical of anything non-Android and posting everywhere that people should buy Android or that Nokia should make Android etc.

Please, go outside, get a life and give it a rest. Just let people buy and use what they want.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

"if it is acceptable for a single large corporation to gain so much control over the world's mobile computing"

if it is acceptable for a single large corporation to gain so much control over the world's computing - FIXED

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Trollface

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

Fandroids have to be zealots. Google has all their personal data and threatens to tell everyone that they wear women's underwear if they are neutral.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

LOL

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/16/google_tax_avoidance_india_fine/

That is all. All of them are tax dodgers.

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Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

"there aren't Samsung fanboys, just as there aren't Dell fanboys. There are Android fanboys, but they are fickle, and have no reason to choose Samsung for their next phone just because they did with their last one."

I agree to a point, but I believe this is a good thing in the mobile phone market.

It gives consumers choice and it forces handset manufacturers to innovate. They must find ways to differentiate their phones from the crowd. Apple, for instance, don't need to do this. There is only one phone, and those with iPhones often look at nothing else. Fandroids have a plethora of options, so the mfrs need to find a way to get their attention (and cash) rather than it going to a competitor.

Personally, I would like to see Google go further and ban mfrs from forcing their Android overlays on people. Make them have an option to remove it. This would lead to better compatibility overall, as all core functionality would need to be accessible to pure Android, and the overlays wouldn't be much more than apps.

For myself, I am actually a Motorola fandroid. I have only had Moto phones since I started down the Android route. I **HATE** Motoblur, and immediately install a new ROM when I get a new phone, but I like Moto's hardware and look at their kit first.

This doesn't mean I don't look elsewhere, but each time Moto has been my choice. But the Nexus 4 is tempting me at the moment, though. I can't really justify it (My Atrix is still prefectly fine and only a year old), but that would be my choice if I was buying today.

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Big Brother

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

Strongly disagree on the manufacturer overlays. Many UI features only now found in mainstream Android are due to innovations from OEMs. Innovation should never be left only to the Oompa Loompa kiddies in the California Chocolate Factory. There is something about the Californian mindset whereby they seem to want to follow the latest fad rather than thinking things through.

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Linux

Re: Just an excuse for more Google lock-in

You're joking right, using Samsung as an example?!!!! Samsung are probably the most keen to do and are driving Tizen as a result (though whether Tizen is the right way to go is a different question).

You mention the desire for OEMs to differentiate in software, but creating a standardised APPLICATION PLATFORM will allow them to do this even more than at present. I never stated that all the software and UI needs standardised, merely the underlying core OS and application platform -- the Android code-base is almost already modular enough to do this.

Such a move will precisely stop Google from using its software to benefit Google and allow Google to take a cut and undercut so-called "partners" as they are doing with the Google-subsidised Nexus 4 (essentially, unless you are in bed with Google you get screwed over by Google). It will allow them to kick out Google Play Store and Google's DRM, and will stop them having to pay Google licence fees all for the privilege of using Google DRM (no, Android is NOT free for the overwhelming majority of users whereby the OEMs have already paid the Google licence as Google Play DRM is becoming almost mandatory for paid-app compatibility).

It will also allow a more open development model, more akin to the Linux kernel or Firefox. It will mean that Nexus devices will no longer receive preferential treatment and we will have a more level playing field for all manufacturers, whereby one does not have to be in bed with Google (I reckon the early success of firstly HTC, and then Samsung would not happened if Google did not choose them and give them a leg-up over their competitors).

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Pint

Lock-in LOL

Once upon a time, Nokia had a firm lock on the market. Then the BlackBerrys were The Thing with their BBM stranglehold on the thumb pressing addicts. Then Apple became the dominant Smartphone and held the wide-eyed reality distortion field members in a locked-up walled ecosystem. But then Android offered an escape away from Apple and straight into the "evil empire" of our Googley Overlords. 18 months from now some unknown Asian manufacturer will create something so amazing, so new and so different that it'll make Android 6.3 look like old socks.

"Lock-in..." ...Yeah right.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lock-in LOL

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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Big Brother

Re: Lock-in LOL

Meanwhile the user loses all purchased applications at each step...

It is no different with Android as most users are buying DRM-locked apps to Google Play unaware.

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Anonymous Coward

Breakneck pace victim of it's own success?

They quote Gingerbread as having 50% market share and being ... wait for it ... an entire 2 years old!

OMG, what are phone manufacturers thinking, running that - it's ancient! - not.

If you look at fragmentation from the handset manufacturers POV ...

The pace of software development has become so rapid, you could argue that for many hardware manufacturers, keeping up is just impossible.

Updating to a new major release is surely a very difficult experience - when you fling it out to the masses to update, it can run into millions of devices. Your ultimately responsible for not destroying the users data and experience.

Since gingerbread, just 2 years ago, we've had three more major versions of Android - that's more than one a year.

Is it any wonder there's such fragmentation in the market?

But then, it also plays in the manufacturers favour - the new device comes with the latest OS - a selling point.

You could question whether it's the device manufacturers leading the software developer too.

Besides, fragmentation is the spice of life - chaos!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Breakneck pace victim of it's own success?

>The pace of software development has become so rapid, you could argue that for many hardware manufacturers, keeping up is just impossible.

50-75K people will buy Gingerbread handsets today. When people stop buying them, manufacturers will stop making them.

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FAIL

Re: Breakneck pace victim of it's own success?

The average person doesn't care about android versions and a fair chunk of those will neither care or possibly even know about android at all.

The fault lies with google's rapid releases and catering to companies that make cheap junk.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm not surprised that google wants to stop people stealing android from them like they stole java from oracle. This goes against open sourcejane just because google rather build its personal data thieving monopoly than properly compete against Chinese companies or even amazon.

I'm not sure how they can use GPL code and place restrictions on it but I hope someone finds and issue with it and puts them in their place. If I were china, I'd just ignore google.

It also seems a bit twattish to blame fragmentation on developers when the problem lies squarely with google and hardware companies and not devs. They should grow up and accept some responsibility.

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Big Brother

Well said, as someone who recognises Android to be the best at present, the irrational fanboyism and pro-Google sycophantic behaviour of other Android user who do not dare criticise Google in a constructive manner are allowing this large tax-dodging spy company to get away with acting like hypocritical cvnts.

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"The first significant update to the license since the previous version"

Well the next update after the previous update always is the first significant update since the previous.

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