You all know how vocal I am about the fundamental flaw in the Android platform — the fragmentation. No matter what Google tries to do, they cannot convince their hardware manufacturers to provide release support for anything but the shiniest newest devices. I don’t fault the manufacturers because financially speaking, it would be a bad business decision for them to invest developers’ time and efforts into backporting the newest “dessert” to their older devices. Google has created an environment where equipment manufactures are responsible for functionality merges of enormous proportions. Any developer will tell you that merging code is a costly and often buggy process.
At its heart, Google is a giant ad agency trying to get as many eyeballs looking at their ads as possible. Google can’t enforce the OS upgrades so Google’s product (what some folks call “customers” — see cartoon at right; if you’re not paying for it, you are the product not the customer) is forced to suffer because they can’t upgrade and obtain the latest and greatest features or important bug and security fixes. And don’t forget, chances are good that you know someone with an Android phone, so your personal information on their device is in the mix as well.
Developers suffer because they need to support such an insurmountable fragmented ecosystem. For many small businesses, Android development is prohibitively expensive with little financial reward.
That’s why I was so excited to come across a plan that finally articles how Google it intends to rectify this fatal flaw with the too open mobile device platform. Do they need to virtually abandon the open-ness which they so vocally claim was superior? Yes — at least a little bit. Is this a bad thing? NO! Without a unifying vision and cohesive experience, manufactures, “customers” and developers are all made to suffer and you end up with the lowest possible denominator every time. By centralizing control of the critical aspects and drastically reducing the complexity of what must be rolled out, they might actually be able to turn the fragmentation issue around. Unfortunately it’ll take a couple of years to ripple through the ecosystem as all the lion’s share of today’s non-upgradeable devices need to slowly be retired through damage or upgrades. It’s an exciting start to say the least, and who knows, eventually I might even need to add an Android category to this blog…
…oh and hey, what’s that? Microsoft bought Nokia to also gain tighter control of hardware and software integration? Gee there might be something to that after all.