Android’s significant fragmentation could destroy Google’s platform ambitions

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by *LTD*, Mar 7, 2010.

  1. *LTD* macrumors G4

    *LTD*

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #1
    http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/05/entelligence-will-android-fragmentation-destroy-the-platform/

    Gartenberg: Android’s significant fragmentation could destroy Google’s platform ambitions

    My friend and colleague Harry McCracken recently bought a brand new Droid from Motorola. He says it's a "loaf of day old bread." He's right. The Droid and Android 2.0 were introduced with much fanfare in December, but have already been eclipsed by Android 2.1 running on Google's Nexus One, and there are some serious ramifications for being behind. For example, Google recently touted the latest mobile version of Google Earth, which is a cool app that you won't be able to use unless you're running 2.1. Sure, Google says "Google Earth will be available in Android Market on most devices that have Android 2.1 or later versions," but that's most, not every. And what does Google mean when it says "as devices like the Droid get updated..." to 2.1? When will they get updated? Is it any wonder that some Android users are starting to get pangs of buyers remorse?

    When Android was announced, I wrote that if "Google can deliver, the impact could be huge," but I caveated a major issue: Google would need to prevent the market from fragmenting and allow it to succeed where other mobile and desktop Linux implementations had failed. Linux fragmentation remains one of the many reasons the open-source OS has failed to capture a meaningful share of the PC desktop market, and Android is rapidly following a similar path by fragmenting into different versions with different core feature sets, different users experiences and run different applications.

    It's not even clear what's part of the official Android distribution and what's been layered on by manufacturers to differentiate their phones. For example, the Droid runs a mostly stock version of Android 2.0 and partially supports Exchange Active Sync, a critical feature for business users. The Nexus One runs a stock version of Android 2.1, and has far more limited Exchange support with no ability to sync calendars. Other vendors like HTC have taken great pains to customize their devices with an added layer of interface customizations like Sense to both differentiate and simplify their devices, as well as implement missing features -- like full Exchange support. The problem is users of devices running Sense (or Motorola's Blur) find themselves stuck on older Android releases such as 1.5 or 1.6, which lack newer core features like Google Maps Navigation.

    I know that last weekend at least one Android enthusiast site reported that Google has promised to get 2.1 on every Android device. Well, that's all well and good and smiles and rainbows, but an unverified blog post from some Android enthusiasts isn't exactly canon to me. Are there hardware issues that will prevent 2.1 running on older devices? Screen resolutions? I recently tried to install one of the few good Android games and found it won't work on Nexus One as it has a nonstandard screen resolution. This isn't just about older devices either -- many new devices were announced at Mobile World Congress running either Android 1.5 or 1.6. When does it end? Either Google addresses the fragmentation issue immediately or it will find that Android suffers the same fate as Linux on the desktop.




    Not even a year into it and the platform is starting to crumble. This latest (and seemingly very calculated) attack from Apple isn't helping, either.

    Without consensus and a unified plan and specific hardware guidelines, Google can't hope to compete against the iPhone.

    Even Microsoft seems to have acknowledged as much in their recent WinMo 7 announcement and its hardware configurations.
     
  2. rhett7660 macrumors G4

    rhett7660

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Location:
    Sunny, Southern California
    #2
    This will be interesting to see how google addresses this. I have said for a while I think this is one thing that can slow down the penetration of google into the smart phone arena. They are moving and moving pretty quick. They have the right idea, more phones on more carriers but if you can't run program "a" on carrier "b" that might hurt them. I said might..... only time will tell on this one.
     
  3. Compile 'em all macrumors 601

    Compile 'em all

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
  4. *LTD* thread starter macrumors G4

    *LTD*

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
  5. Melrose Suspended

    Melrose

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    #5
    This is the age-old problem that plagues open source projects. Developers need a common banner to gather under; Google has partially addressed this by offering the Nexus One (dumb name, but hey) and officially endorsing and selling a certain model, but there are other products running Android that are still very popular and very snazzy. Google should have had Nexus One to start with, and then open sourced it's OS for others only after. This would have offered the desired open source, but given a very clear signal that developing for just one product was a safe bet. Kind of like the way Mozilla worked, with the exception that now we have FireFox, with all the developers that rallied under its banner, and people seem to have an overwhelmingly negative view of IE, a scenario that Apple and Nokia are unlikely to let happen.

    What will happen is as the fragmentation sets in, a few variations will rise to the top (driven by flashy, must-have handsets and key software features) and developers will unite under those few brands. This will be good for uniting developers, but bad for those companies that have sunk time and money into their own variation of the OS - and potentially could belly-up smaller developers. After this happens, Android will probably only be downloaded and used by weekend tinkerers or corporate developers who build for internal use - and the power of being able to customize a nice OS from just about the ground up is a sweet idea. Google will then be forced to play certain cards once they realize that to release certain new features may break their handsets from big sellers and on some key models; The system will either become so locked up in it's customization that Google bloats future releases with legacy support, or the most flashy and desired variations are not supported and then dumped, which hurts development and market integration. My view is probably too dystopian; I hope it is and stays viable, but the way it was launched and is (currently) handled, momentum has been lost.

    The offering Nexus One itself was a poorly done, because (a) it arrived after fragmentation began and (b) it lacks certain features, such as multi-touch - at least in the major market that is the US. Not to mention now Google says "don't put it in your pocket, fool!", effectively telling their users that basic behaviour and habits have to change; the risk of breaking your phone because you handled it the way you've always handled your phone will put a lot of people off.
     
  6. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2006
    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    #6
    Since when has wvga (800x480) been a non standard resolutions, I could understand the droid/milestone as it has a 854x480 screen res but not the nexus one. In my view thats down down to the person doing the coding on the game not taking into account anything above hvga (ie htc magic/hero res). Windows Mobile has been using wvga resolutions for years.

    Personally I think the issue is with the phone manufacturers not google. Google has given them a free (I assume) os which several have then decided to customise, which is part of its draw obviously, but have then not upgraded to a newer version of the os when it comes available, some are still on 1.5 which is 4 versions old which in tech terms is ancient.

    Now to me this is both an issue and not an issue, it's an issue as we all want the newest versions, especially techies who like android, but then the manufacturers don't want to spend money on new firmwares now they have your money. However you could also look at it in the same way as (I'll call them a) 'dumb phones' which comes with one os and it isn't upgraded, you buy it because you liked the phone, the price is right or you enjoyed using the os when you received.

    Melrose - the nexus one has multi touch in its native apps (browser, maps, photo gallery, keyboard) since the last over the air update, the hardware always supported multi touch. Also it was HTC saying not to put in your pocket, which to be fair was more in reference to when you sit down or in the same pocket as some keys.
     
  7. Compile 'em all macrumors 601

    Compile 'em all

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    #7
    There is a reason why most Apple products are successful. They develop for the common man. Someone who just wants things to work, out of the box. Apple goes into great efforts to deliver such experience. Their hardware and software is dumbed down, obvious, and makes sense.

    Nerds don't and will never ever understand this. Nerds interpret this Apple trying to limit their abilities and choices. What they can or can't do. So naturally when Android shows up, all the geeks rejoice. They can finally chmod 755 to install flavor X of android 1.6.202. With every manufacturer customizing android, it becomes a pita for developers. And consequently, avg. joe buys an android game for his nexus one only to find it doesn't work. To him this means, android doesn't work. Multiply this experience with a couple of millions and you got a serious perception problem of the platform.
     
  8. kdarling macrumors demi-god

    kdarling

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2007
    Location:
    Cabin by a lake
    #8


    People who bought the first and second model iPhones just before the next model came out, experienced the same "old bread" ... missing voice control, video, perhaps MMS, GPS and compass.

    So it always goes.

    Wait until the iPhone gets a screen resolution update and apps begin to depend on it. App and API fragmentation is just beginning.
     
  9. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2006
    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    #9
    In my opinion most of apple's iPhone success at the moment is due to the iPod and the fact it's seen as a status symbol, even though as more are sold it becomes common and less 'special'.

    I'll be honest, I think the iPhone is overpriced (come on it's about £50 quids worth of hardware on top of an iPod touch) and too limiting in what it can do but then I've had almost all the features (technology upgrades excluded) of the iPhone (albeit in a slightly less visually appealing package) and mulktasking almost 10 years ago (p900i). Unfortunately symbian/uiq hasn't really moved with the times and is now basically out of touch but I still wouldn't have an iPhone over android, hell I'd rather have windows mobile 6.5 with htc's sense overlay, Windows phone 7 is very very appealing on it's own rights but it's not out yet.

    Now I'm not likely to tinker with the underlying code of something like android but I can appreciate the open nature of the os and I personally prefer the way it works using widgets and a 'menu' rather than the home screen being a menu. The drop down notification bar is ingenious I might add.

    But at the end of the day everyone will buy the phone they like due to cost,requirements or how pretty it looks (you know some do - look at the motorola razr)
     
  10. *LTD* thread starter macrumors G4

    *LTD*

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #10
    Fragmandroid . . .

    Woopsie . . .

    http://www.neowin.net/news/atampt-cripples-its-first-android-offering-not-suitable-for-devs

    AT&T cripples its first Android offering; not suitable for devs
    By Benjamin Rubenstein

    Not even a full day after releasing the Android powered Motorola Backflip, AT&T is being slammed for closing off the Android platform on the device. Last week, we reported that AT&T had stripped Google search from Android, in favor of Yahoo. However, we had no idea of what else was to follow.

    Early adopters of the Motorola Backflip may be compelled to return their phones after realizing that it doesn't run the Android they hoped for. Android's primary appeal comes from its open-ness. AT&T (which is synonymous with "the iPhone carrier"), seems to have a thing against a platform being open to user customization. One of the shocking discoveries of a now annoyed Backflip owner involves just this. In the XDA-Developers forum, aikeru posts a thread entitled "[Android] Motorola Backflip - DON'T BUY, HERE'S WHY!."

    In the post, aikeru makes known that the device lacks the option to install applications from un-trusted sources. In all builds of Android, users have the option to allow non-Market apps to be installed on their phones. This allows users to install apps from a memory card or via their web browser. Without having such an option, developers have no way of testing their own applications on their device. The Backflip is 100% useless to them.

    He also mentions that AT&T loaded a lot of their own bloatware on the device, and hid/removed any competing apps that Android would have come with. This, combined with the outdated Android 1.5 and inability to use Google search, makes this phone a no-go for most Android fans. Just when you thought AT&T was opening up, they go ahead and prove you wrong.
     
  11. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2006
    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    #11
    So....that's not androids fault, thats AT&T's. They've even installed yahoo as the default search engine :rolleyes:

    Even in the UK our providers wreck phones by installing their customised os's, basically they brand it with all their logo's and add in unnecessary software which is 90% of the time buggy and the cause of any issues. You can't go blaming the os, it's the manufacturer caving to operator demands and letting them screw it all up.
     
  12. *LTD* thread starter macrumors G4

    *LTD*

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #12
    You will NEVER find a customized OS or carrier bloatware on an iPhone. Apple's tight control sees to this.

    Just another example of Google losing grip on their platform.
     
  13. jaw04005 macrumors 601

    jaw04005

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2003
    Location:
    AR
    #13
    Those were all hardware limitations. Apple has actually been very good about supporting all iPhone models with new software releases. How exactly were they supposed to add a Compass or GPS to the original iPhone? It'll be interesting to see if that changes with 4.0. However, I doubt it.

    With each new version of the iPhone OS comes a new version of the iTunes Store app. So, it stands to reason that Apple will continue to update the older models until they reach a breaking point.

    Google needs to take control of their Android OS releases. They should be pushed out from Google directly, not the carriers and not for each specific device.
     
  14. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #14
    One could easily argue the opposite. Google giving the customer choices instead of apple's closed, iron fist approach
     
  15. theBB macrumors 68020

    theBB

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2006
    #15
    Why should they? They get no cash flow from users having better capabilities. (At least Apple gets some App Store revenue.) You might argue that it may hurt the credibility of Android as a platform if it gets the reputation that most phones don't get software updates, like iPhone does, but it is not manufacturers' OS. They can jump ship to another OS, such as WinMo. Apple cannot jump ship with all of its investments and reputation tied up in iPhone OS. The manufacturers have shown that they have a very short term view before iPhone. They were not trying very hard to create a good user interface along with a good reputation and brand loyalty. What makes you think they will change so suddenly now?

    Google does not need Android to be the "best." It just has to be "good enough" to keep mobile search market open in the future. With its track record, I doubt it will make Android better than that threshold.
     
  16. *LTD* thread starter macrumors G4

    *LTD*

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Location:
    Canada
    #16
    The very subject of this thread shows that "choices" aren't quite what they're cut out to be.
     
  17. belvdr macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    #17
    So Google gives choices, AT&T cuts those choices out, and Google is the bad one? What is your point? Apple gives you little to no choices and you seem to think that's a good thing.

    If anything AT&T is the on that's the problem, which is just another reason I avoid them at all costs. I have issues with their wireless and even their carrier division. It's all junk.
     
  18. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2006
    Location:
    Norfolk, UK
    #18
    How are they losing grip, this was the way the os was designed to be, open and customisable.

    Um got to love selective quoting, completely missing off the bit about how I can see both sides :rolleyes:. The reason the upgrades to android are not being rolled out is due to the customisations of the os as it's quite readily shown on places like xda developers that the newer versions of android will happily run on older hardware, some of the releases even have htc sense (the main reference for android customisations) for example added.

    I'd rather have a choice than being restricted to only using things that the manufacturer sees as being ok. You know I've paid my money I want to do with it what I want.

    I can say right now that if I had a choice of any free phone with everything being paid for on it I would honestly choose the iPhone last.
     
  19. DakotaGuy macrumors 68040

    DakotaGuy

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2002
    Location:
    South Dakota, USA
    #19
    It will be interesting to see if the iPhone 4.0 OS is going to run on G1 and G2 iPhones. One could argue that Apple will also have some fragmentation when it comes to the next update. This is an issue for everyone with new more powerful hardware coming on the market.

    LTD, by now I think we all get your hate for anything not Apple. If you don't like Google or don't like Android then stop using all Google products. Some Apple fans want everyone from 1st grade to the Nursing Home using an iPhone so everyone looks the same. Some of us like choice and Android offers a wonderful choice.

    No matter how much doom and gloom you spread about Android, the platform keeps growing at a high rate. Keep telling yourself that Android doesn't have a chance of taking a chunk out of iPhone sales because it does. If Apple was not the least bit worried about Android they would never spend their resources on a lawsuit against HTC. It is your opinion that Android is a failed platform, but the market is saying another thing.
     
  20. pdjudd macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2007
    Location:
    Plymouth, MN
    #20
    "Bad" isn't really accurate though. Assuming that choice is always good or always ideal is one that is fatally flawed. After all having choices can be argued to have really bad consequences when things can go wrong.

    The reality is, that any operating system has restrictions to some degree - even linux based ones like Android. There are certain things that you cannot do legally (they involve modifying the hardware radio). What you are having an issue with is the degree of choices that are available - well that's the result of having an OS like Android that nobody can control - you have high risks of inconsistency. That's why Apple does things their way - it offers them the best chances of consistency - it can never be 100%, but it's far more predictable.

    AT&T's choice to limit their android phones is not "bad" because someone can always release a competing device. At the worse it's a stupid move. AT&T is not doing anything that the Android licensing forbids. They are choosing a particular business model and the customers opinions of that model will be the deciding factor here.

    You are applying human models of "good" and "bad" to areas that are technical. Choice can certainly be bad if it is misused - that's why we have laws that restrict your options with certain things. Limiting those options isn't necessarily a bad thing. AT&T for example isn't trying to make it's crippled implementation of Android the default for every phone on the market (assuming for a minute that it could).

    I would contend that is not fragmentation. Fragmentation is where you have multiple versions of your operating system out simultaneously to accommodate different products. Windows Mobile is fragmented because they have different versions for touchscreen, keyboard only, pen input, and so on all at the same time.

    Apple's development uses the same OS core, but their problem is worrying about obsolete hardware. Apple limitations there are entirely based on hardware that was not available. In those cases, Apple can just eliminate a couple of features and merge the code. The big difference is that they never add features that are unique to one particular platform.

    Take Android. When Google updates Android each manufacture of each phone has to tweak the OS for their phone since they all look and operate differently (different hardware features, different form factors). Google has to anticipate all of this because of inherent fragmentation - changes made outside of Google. Apple changes everything internally based on forward upgrades. Their stopping point comes when it becomes infeasible to upgrade old hardware models (like the 1G model) and at that point they stop upgrading. But Apple never upgrades the old iPhones with features unique to that model and not another. Upgrade always benefit newer hardware first and older ones if possible. With Android, its based on what choices the phone made when they built the phone..
     
  21. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #22
    Companies that offer choices, invariably succeed. Apple succeeded in the iPod arena because they offered a choice in MP3 market that was head and shoulders superior to anything that was currently out in the market at the time. They were the only ones to couple an online store with an MP3 player.

    The iPhone was successful, because they again provided a device that was coupled with an online store when no one else was doing it.

    Now, they have competition, and that competition such as Google. Google is setting the ground work for providing many different phones to suit a persons choice, and the OS is being updated more often then apple’s.

    The iPhone is built on a closed eco-system that has proved successful to apple when there’s been no other competition. Now that there are many players, they need to provide a product that differentiates against their competitors. Lack of choice only hinders that effort.
     
  22. pdjudd macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2007
    Location:
    Plymouth, MN
    #23
     
  23. DaveSW macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    #24
    Mobile != PCs


    different and (sometimes incompatible) form factors, screen sizes, OS, input devices (keyboard+ touch, touch-only, keyboard only, pen+kb+touch, pen+touch,??), processors, computing paradigm (web, flash, java), etc.


    you can't do in Mobile what MS/Linux/etc. did to the PC. :cool:
     
  24. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #25
    Agreed, as I said they provided a device that was head and shoulders above anything else on the market that was also coupled with an online store. I believe apple was the first to provide an MP3 player that was easy to use, had tons of storage (remember most of them back then only had 128k or something like that) and integrated with the itunes store.

    Not quite, I remember back in the day when Lotus was king, MS was very successful, no matter what you say they've been able to compete with other companies and come out on top. Now many times they employed illegal tactics but my point is they've been profitable with and without competition.
     

Share This Page