Technology is our friend: Why Google is right to make anti-fragmentation their first priority in Android
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April 13, 2011

Why Google is right to make anti-fragmentation their first priority in Android

Many people think I am an Android fan boy, others told me I would be in blind love with Microsoft, and all that is because I dare to (and tend to) disagree when educated, internet-savvy people around me, be it online contacts or real life friends, start to sell Apple features or behaviour as something great when I really think they aren't. This is just one (really super-bad) example, and since the guy has 3000 FB-friends and is a public figure, I am sure it is ok to publish this post here:

[the post is from March 2011 and states that Apple is "majestic" because the iPhone hotspot would be such a great feature].

To say it loud and clear: iOS devices provide a great user experience. I can understand anyone who loves his iphone or ipad, and I have a Mac on my desk myself (among other computers, that is). I simply resent the price this user experience is coming with - not so much in money as especially in iTunes. If the world of home computing will really be more about apps than about free browsing in future (that remains to be seen), and even our home devices will be on iOS or Android or ChromeOS, finding (and presenting) relevant apps will be a mini-Google-like business, and since iTunes is not accessible via http, Apple will be in total and full control of it when it comes to iOS devices and its 9 digit number of users. No one except Apple could build a recommendation or search engine to manage curation over a few hundred thousand apps, and I dislike this as a perspective (and an attitude) that is covered up by strange marketing and feature arguments by (wanna-be) fans, that's all.

Coming to Android, I was really surprised and initially thought Google turned "evil" when I read they did not release the latest code; then I saw Andy Rubin's blog post on anti-fragmentation that I could relate to. And today I found an example that made me fully understand: Sony Ericsson released their own channel within the Android market.

I can see why a handset manufacturer tries to differentiate from others through hardware AND services, but for the Android platform, this is exactly what you don't want to happen: a different experience for every device owner, not only from a "presenting" standpoint like HTC Sense, but on an application level - which makes it totally different because this involves developers and the amount of people they can reach with their apps. Additionally, the "update" of the Android market on SE devices is a) geographically not consistent and b) operator-dependent. So even in this mini-case, you would have three factors like your location (or where the handset was bought, I am not sure what counts), your type of handset and your operator to wether get this "upgrade" or not. Oddly enough, not all of those special SE-Apps seem to work even on all SE-devices, if I understand the reader comments correctly. It is actions like these that would open the door for mega-fragmentation and an inconsistency throughout the platform that could a) irritate developers in a big way and therefore b) lead to a less attractive platform, if not killing it on the long run.

Besides that I never understood the "openness" of Android as a "Open Source" or "totally open" approach but rather as the possibility for any device manufacturer to use the OS and therefore base it on a huge variety of devices in any price and design range and even in any industry - on the long run, we will have operating systems (em-)powering a lot more devices than just mobile phones, slates and eventually televisions. Interestingly enough, the users commenting on this Sony Ericsson blog post don't seem to feel that this offer is an "upgrade" at all, and there are quite a few of them who actually demand to be asked first before the market is altered in such way.

It seems as if they feel they are Android customers, just incidentally happening to use a Sony Ericsson device and this and that operator. As much as I can understand SE's strategy of differentiation here, this is a great message for Android. Therefore, they will have to balance anti-fragmentation measures against what we perceive as "openness". This example just shows that a REALLY open operating system will probably not work on the long run. As a customer (not as a geek - which I am not, anyway), I want freedom to choose and this implies handsets, devices, prices as well as apps and services. Apple constrains this freedom through control. Heavy fragmentation would constrain this freedom just as much.