Google Angers Partners Over Android Fragmentation Control - InformationWeek

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4/5/2011
12:21 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Google Angers Partners Over Android Fragmentation Control

Google's Android platform has gone from nothing three years ago to the number one platform today for smartphones, but it isn't without its faults. Its growth has been explosive partially because phone manufacturers have unprecedented control over a third party platform. That is also causing a fragmentation problem and Google wants to solve the issue.

Google's Android platform has gone from nothing three years ago to the number one platform today for smartphones, but it isn't without its faults. Its growth has been explosive partially because phone manufacturers have unprecedented control over a third party platform. That is also causing a fragmentation problem and Google wants to solve the issue.Guided by bean counters, some manufacturers skimp a bit on the hardware which means the phone has sub-par performance. It got so bad with over a dozen phones Angry Birds developer Rovio had to develop a lightweight version of the popular game specially for those devices.

It isn't just hardware though. Manufactures can customize the platform to their heart's content. That is the nature of open source software and is both a pro and a con. The developers of Tweetdeck had to contend with over 100 variants of Android from a pool of 36,000 beta testers.

Google is laying down the law. As BusinessWeek puts it, "There will be no more willy-nilly tweaks to the software." If manufactures want early access to the most up-to-date versions of Android, they will have to seek the platform maker's blessing on anticipated changes.

The licensing agreement now has non-fragmentation clauses according to some developers. While the clauses aren't necessarily new, Google is making more of an effort to enforce those policies. That is difficult to do since there are no financial penalties, but by withholding the latest code from those who run afoul of Google's desires, Google may get its way. If you are constantly releasing devices with a given version of Android months after your competition, you won't be in business very long.

This may irk those that hold that open source software should be just that - open. Android is still open, it just isn't a free for all. Sometimes, practicality has to come before philosophy.

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