Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Jun 2010 22:42 UTC
Google Fragmentation. You'll often hear people say this is a major problem with Google's Android platform; there are many devices running multiple different versions of the mobile operating system, leading to fragmentation. Dan Morrill, Android's open source and compatibility program manager, addresses this issue in a blog post, and details what Google is doing to fight it. The gist: it's a non-issue - according to Google, that is.
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Windows Mobile, anyone? Or pretty much all other non iPhoneOS phone OS that's been released?

Granted, there is some amount of fragmentation for the iPhoneOS, but (at least until we get to iPhoneOS 4.0 released officially) it has been minimal, as up until now, all past iPhones and iPod Touch models could be easily updated to the latest and greatest version, and Apple made it as close to painless as they could, for the most part. Apple wants to sell hardware, and also long-term they want to have better adoption for the purpose of selling apps via iTunes, which... helps sell more hardware, whereas Google is in it for the ad views, and doesn't give a flip about selling apps and hardware itself: Google is quite content on relying on hardware manufacturers and cell phone companies doing most of the grunt work and financial risk in creating all the various models, which, once things reach a certain point, are going to have to very competitively go for the lowest price, and therefore lowest profit margins: this doesn't harm Google in the least, on the surface, as Google, once again, is more concerned about ad views than hardware margins, since they have none.

However, Google wanting to go that way is in direct conflict with long-term plans of adoption of apps that are ideally targeted to any given hardware/OS feature set: this is largely because they've ceded too much control to the telecoms in terms of OS updates, and it seems (like this is a surprise) that since all the hardware is supposed to be nearly the same for the sake of reference platform compatibility (well, sort of!), they want to differentiate based on software, as there's simply not an awful lot of margin for hardware differentiation. The other things they may differentiate on, of course, is phone service plans. Well, if they insist on doing their own customized customer-facing base software, that has to be developed and kept updated to match the OS to show the phone at its best customer-facing ability, and such things tend to cause schedule slips, and... the phone companies will often go with the cheapest thing they think they can get away with that's different, even if not better.

Well, let's face it: Apple is also largely differentiating based on their software, in the goal of selling more hardware: their big advantage is that they've secured deals to keep their native apps as-is, and have full control over the updating of the OS and built-in software, combined with their biggest advantage, really: iTunes and the AppStore being the sole Apple-approved place to buy all iPhoneOS software. In addition, since Apple isn't going for the commodity space, and they keep upgrading the capabilities over time via software updates, they don't have a deep need to do the hyper rabbit-reproducing low-end commodity cell phone generational upgrades, and can release them just once a year.

Now, which business model will work out best long-term for overall adoption? Well, look where Windows Mobile has gone as an example, or why Android has taken off: sufficiently set standards that have pushed models of smartphones to overcome all the old ones in volume for new sales (note I didn't state that all the old phones are dead and buried, as I simply don't know the answer to that question). But, didn't Windows Mobile start out fairly well, too, until everyone and their dog came out with something similar, but different enough to have things fragment too far? Ultimately, I think there will be 2 companies that are profitable at this whole thing for cell phones: Apple and Google, Apple because they make and sell hardware, and Google because they give barely any care about the hardware end, as they only want ad views, and the hardware makers be damned beyond providing that. Apple has a different sort of long tail from Google: long-term iTunes app purchase, etc. while Google makes nothing on the start, and everything on the long tail: ad views. Well, at least that's the theory ;) What will the ultimate reality be?

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