Google declines to comment on a report from Engadget that it was mulling a move to make applications and components normally integrated on Android smartphones available through Android Market for users to download on their own schedule. Android has come under scrutiny because there have been so many versions released in just a few short years. Forrester Research Charles Golvin tells eWEEK that if Google does decouple its applications it would be a tacit acknowledgment that Android has become fragmented.
If Google is really planning to roll out a version of Android that mitigates
the gross fragmentation
issue among smartphones based on
that operating system, the company is keeping it to itself.
Google declined to comment on a report from Engadget that it was considering
a move to make applications and components normally integrated on Android
smartphones available through Android Market for users to download at will.
Android, while praised for being open source, has weathered criticism
because there are have been a handful of versions of the platform released in
just a few short years. Consumers can go to Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint
and T-Mobile stores and Google's own Web store to find devices based on Android
OS versions 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 and 2.1.
Choice is good in any free market. However, building applications and
hardware without uniform interoperability is a risky venture. While Apple
controls everything on its iPhone, Android's open-source provenance lends
itself to decisions based on several criteria, including hardware manufacturer,
carrier, region and customized software.
The fragmentation issue surfaced with the advent of some Google applications.
Google received plenty grief over releasing applications such as Google Maps
Navigation for Android 2.0, which first worked only on the Motorola Droid,
before Google made it compatible with Android 1.6
devices such as Motorola's Cliq
and Devour smartphones.
Android phone owners went through a similar period of exasperation earlier in
March when Google released Gesture Search
first for devices running Android
2.0 and up, then for Android 1.6. If there is a theme, it is one of consistent
Engadget has heard that Google is planning a salve for these wounds,
beginning with the Android version code-named Froyo and continuing through
"We've been given reason to believe that the company will start by
decoupling many of Android's standard applications and components from the
platform's core and making them downloadable and updatable through the Market,
much the same as they've already done with Maps," Engadget
said March 29.
With applications available through Android Market, users won't have to wait
for smartphone makers and carriers to push out staggered upgrades to devices.
See the latest debacle over Verizon and Motorola trying to push Android 2.1
to the Droid.
While a Google spokesperson said the company would not comment on unreleased
products, Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin told eWEEK that if Google
did decouple applications in this vein it would be a tacit acknowledgment that Android
has become fragmented.
But it would be a welcome move. Golvin expects Android to blossom
significantly in 2010, with smartphones, tablets and set-top boxes saturating
However, this growth could be threatened if developers are increasingly
frustrated by their inability to tap the complete market with an application
without descending into version hell.
"That's something that Google would have to address," Golvin said,
adding that while developers he has spoken with are comfortable with Android
now, they fear the fragmentation may worsen.