Google labels fragmentation a red herring but Android release cycle will slow

Puts onus for compatibility on developers

Google labels fragmentation a red herring but Android release cycle will slow
Fragmentation might have been accepted by many as an inevitable side effect of Android's open set up, but Google has suggested it believes such issues are being overplayed.

The claim has been made by Android's open source and compatibility program manager Dan Morrill, with any notion that the platform has been hampered by fragmentation dismissed as a red herring.

"The thing is, nobody ever defined 'fragmentation' - or rather, everybody has a different definition," Morrill says on the Android Developers blog.

"Because it means everything, it actually means nothing, so the term is useless. Stories on 'fragmentation' are dramatic and they drive traffic to pundits' blogs, but they have little to do with reality. 'Fragmentation' is a bogeyman, a red herring, a story you tell to frighten junior developers. Yawn."

Putting on the brakes

His post has been followed by a comment made by Google VP of mobile platforms Andy Rubin, with the suggestion being that updates to the OS will be slowed to just one major revision a year.

"Our product cycle is now, basically twice a year, and it will probably end up being once a year when things start settling down," Rubin told the San Jose Mercury News.

"Because a platform that's moving - it's hard for developers to keep up. I want developers to basically leverage the innovation. I don't want developers to have to predict the innovation."

Developer's decision

This desire to keep up with and ahead of the times is backed up by Morrill, who states it is to developers' advantage for Android to remain fresh and flexible to change.

Indeed, while he states Google is making every effort to ensure studios are kept up to date with the requirements of each new revision of Android, it's up to each individual developer to decide just which flavours of Android they want their apps to run on.

"A lot of ink has been spilled on the fact that there are multiple versions of Android out there in users' hands at the same time," Morrill adds in the post.

"While it's true that devices without the latest software can't run some of the latest apps, Android is 100 percent forward compatible - apps written properly for older versions also run on the newest versions.

"The choice is in app developers' hands as to whether they want to live on the bleeding edge for the flashiest features, or stay on older versions for the largest possible audience."

Breaking up the market

Google seems to believe the solution to any compatibility issues can be resolved if developers assign just what they want from Android before they begin coding.

As such, Morrill says Google will make sure apps designed to work on newer editions of the OS don't show up on Android Market for users running older versions.

"As long as you accurately list your app's requirements, we'll do the rest and make sure that your app won't be accessible to a device where it won't run properly," Morrill concludes.

"Now, that's not to say that we think our current solution is perfect - no solution is. But we're continuously working on improvements to the SDK tools and Android Market to make your life as an Android developer even easier."

Of course, the wider issue that a device's OS is set by operators and handset manufacturers - with many locking down devices and not allowing OS updates - is the imperfection users will just have to live with. 

[source: Fierce Wireless]

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.