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Google's Plan to Stop Android Fragmentation

03.30.2010
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Android phones have continued their rise in market share and in developer interest because of their open platform and robust APIs.  One of its main disadvantages, however, has been the fragmentation of OS versions.  Currently there are four: 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, and 2.1.  The problem is that customers with older versions of Android are reliant on the manufacturers to provide updates to the newer versions in order to access the latest features.  Users and developers are forced to wait months while the handset makers test and then roll out an update.  Google has been releasing new OS versions so fast that its partners can't keep up.  According to Engadget, Google has a plan to end the problem of fragmentation on the Android platform.


Credit: Google, Android and Me

From their visit with the CTIA Wireless Association, "people whose words carry weight" told Engadget how Google planned to fix the fragmentation conundrum.  The CTIA people say that Google will begin a process of decoupling many of the standard Android applications and core components from the OS.  These applications would become available for download and updating through the Android Marketplace.  This is a familiar strategy that Google has already used for Maps.  

This is especially favorable for core component updates. For example, if Google updates the Android browser or touchscreen keyboard, users would be able to download these updates without having to wait for their handset maker to provide them.  "In all likelihood," Engadget says that the decoupling project should happen during the development of the next two versions of Android: codenamed Froyo and Gingerbread

The CTIA people say that Google is also going to help slow fragmentation by slowing down core development.  According to the report, Google believes that the OS is reaching a mature stage where less updates will be required.  This year, Google is expected to shift its focus to developing applications and features.  It will mean less treat-themed releases, but by the time Froyo arrives the platform and the developer-targeted API will have reached a mature stage.  

Although there's no clear timetable for when this new system will arrive, this is definitely good news for Android users and developers if its accurate.  We'll just have to wait for Google to confirm the report.