John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Android Fragmentation Concerns Overblown, Says Guy Who Helped Develop Android

pile_o_androidsAndroid fragmentation. It might be a legitimate concern for developers and OS zealots — and a marketing point for Apple in its smartphone platform battle with Google. But to the broader market? Not an issue, said Android co-founder Rich Miner.

Speaking at a Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council event this week, Miner — now a partner at Google Ventures — acknowledged that some fragmentation in Android is inevitable, given the platform’s wide popularity. But, he said, concerns that Android is being undermined because of it are overblown. While the tech-savvy might wonder if that’s the case, the broader market could probably not care less.

“Us techies read the blogs and know what features we may be missing,” Miner said, according to Xconomy’s transcription of his remarks. “I think if you asked a consumer, ‘Do you feel like your phone OS needs to be updated today?’ they’re pretty happy with the results and the performance they’re seeing. So I’m not sure it’s a major issue.”

That’s a fair point. Most consumers don’t spend much time thinking about which version of Android they’re running.

But a lot of developers do.

Because if you want to sell your app to the largest possible Android market, you’ve got to develop for three different versions of the OS — Gingerbread, Jelly Bean and Ice Cream Sandwich. Take a look at the chart below:


Add to that a multitude of manufacturer hardware and overlay variations, and concerns over Android fragmentation don’t seem quite as overblown as Miner would characterize them.

After all, variability, lack of cohesion and higher development and customer support costs aren’t exactly the qualities developers covet in mobile platforms — even dominant ones.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik