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Android’s Biggest Worry: Fragmentation


I like Android a lot. It’s Linux’s biggest end-user success story. Android has great applications. It works well for me in my Motorola Droid 2. And, Android’s smartphone market-share is growing fast. Indeed, analysts such as Piper Jaffray predict that eventually Android will become the number one smartphone operating system in the world. If, that is, everything goes right.

So what could go wrong? The iPhone wipes it off the map? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone is a great phone. But, you’ll never see new, inexpensive iPhones. Apple’s preferred place in the market is to be the Porsche of computers: they don’t sell cheap anything. Windows Phone 7? It’s better than ever, but that’s not saying much. Blackberry? Symbian? MeeGo? Too little, dead in the water, and not fast enough off the mark. No, what Android has to worry about isn’t the competition, it’s concerns are its friends.

You see, all the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), like Motorola and HTC put their own software, Sense UI and Motoblur respectively, on top of Android. Then, all the carriers add their own special-sauce of applications.

It can get messy. On top of this, there’s multiple current versions of Android out and supported at any given moment on the same hardware. While Dan Morrill, Google’s Open Source & Compatibility Program Manager, can say Android “Fragmentation is a bogeyman, a red herring, a story you tell to frighten junior developers,” it’s not. It’s a real problem.

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