One problem facing Android is fragmentation of the base operating system. There are currently four different versions available to end users based on handset and carrier choice. That stinks for developers and end users both. Google has a plan that should help to solve the problem.Right now, Android adopters can get saddled with Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 or 2.1 depending on which phone they choose. The Motorola Droid and HTC Nexus One run 2.0 and 2.1, respectively, and have garnered the most attention of late from developers. Users are already seeing a rift in the Android Market, whereby the coolest, newest apps are only compatible with Android 2.0 and/or 2.1. This makes Joe Public unhappy, and rightfully so.
Part of the problem is that Google has been developing Android at full steam, releasing new core versions of the platform faster than its partners can keep up with their own tweaks and customization.
Google has taken a lot of heat over this fragmentation issue. A fix is necessary. Now, according to Engadget, Google has one in mind. Engadget reports that recent discussions it has had with Google leads them to believe that a significant shift is on the way.
Here's what's in store: Google is going to keep Android together by breaking it apart. Until now, many of Android's main applications have been tied to the platform's core. This mandated that everything be updated at once, rather than separately. Moving forward, Google will detach the core functions of the platform from the standard applications. This will let one be updated without requiring updates from the other. Modules and applications can then be updated as necessary via the Android Market, rather than offered over-the-air from the network operators as one big overhaul.
This fix will take place in two phases, spread between the next two updates to Android: Froyo and Gingerbread. Base platform functions and architecture will be rooted to the corresponding version of Android, but the user-facing applications and user experience stuff will all be updatable from the Android Market.
Another aspect that will help stem Android fragmentation, says Engadget, is that the base core of the platform is nearing a level of maturity that further updates aren't as necessary and will take place further and further apart. In the last six months alone, we've seen three different versions of Android come to market. This is going to change. Updates to the core platform will become less frequent. This will allow handset makers and wireless network operators to keep pace, and roll out updated applications and services as they become available rather than months later.
Will it all work? Google hasn't officially commented on the matter. Whether or not this is the approach Google takes, the company needs to do something about Android fragmentation.