Fragmentation Is Not The End of Android

3 Zebras

The fragmentation of Android is very real and very problematic for end users, developers, mobile operators, device manufacturers, and Google. However fragmentation does not mean Android is going to “die” or “fail” as some seem to think.

On the contrary I think we can count on Android playing a significant role in our world for a long, long time. I also am confident that Google has already lost control of Android and has zero chance of regaining control.  This post explains why I’m so confident about this.

TL;DR

  • Next time you say/hear “fragmentation sucks/is not a problem” consider for whom.
  • Fragmentation will cause Android to continue to grow.
  • Google has lost control of Android due to fragmentation.

You’ll, hopefully, note that I intentionally separate Android from Google. Repeat after me: Android is not Google and Google is not Android. Android has become something that is independent of Google (or anyone else, for that matter).

Let’s break down this whole mobile platform fragmentation thing. This weekend Jon Evans of Techcrunch apologized to MG Siegler for disagreeing about the relative quality of the Android and iOS developer tools.  In that post, Jon argued that Android device fragmentation is relatively minor for developers, but OS fragmentation is a real problem:

Android’s fragmentation has become a giant millstone for Android app development, leaving it worryingly behind its iOS equivalent. It’s not the panoply of screen sizes and formats; the Android layout engine is actually quite good at minimizing that annoyance. It’s not the frequent instances of completely different visual behavior on two phones running exactly the same version of Android; again, annoying, but relatively minor. Device fragmentation is just an irritation.

OS fragmentation, though, is an utter disaster.

Jon Evans

Jon points out two of the 5 axes of fragmentation: Device & OS. The other three are User Interface, Marketplace, and Services.

(Update: I expanded on the following taxonomy in a guest post for LockerGnome on Oct 22, 2012. Go here to read the updated version.) 

The 5 Axes of Mobile Platform Fragmentation

  • User Interface
  • Device
  • Operating System
  • Marketplace
  • Service

For a mobile platform, a different degree of fragmentation can exist along each of these axes. For example, Apple’s iOS platform has almost no fragmentation along the Marketplace axis because Apple has been so hardcore about ensuring that the iTunes marketplace is the only marketplace supported. A relatively small amount of fragmentation on the User Interface axis exists because Apple has been extremely consistent with UI. Likewise there is a bit of device fragmentation in iOS due to different generations of iPhones having different hardware capabilities (such as a front facing camera).

The fragmentation of Android is severe, across all of these axes, regardless of how Eric Schmidt tries to spin it. And because of the complexity of the mobile ecosystem (and the other ecosystems Android is part of) the effect is more multiplicative than additive.

Revisiting the Mobile Ecosystem

You’ll recall in my “Windows Phone is Superior; Why Hasn’t it Taken Off?” post I broke the mobile ecosystem into its market sides:  Developers, Users, Carriers, Device Manufacturers, and OS Providers (see how I put Developers first? Wouldn’t want someone to think I don’t believe they are important, for heaven’s sake).  As I pointed out, the mobile ecosystem is highly complex and, due to the desires & behaviors of the various sides, not efficient. There is not enough clean value exchange between several sides of the market and too much friction.

But regardless of how virtuous the virtuous cycles within the mobile ecosystem are, it is clear each side of the ecosystem is impacted differently by each fragmentation axis. In some cases, some combinations of fragmentation/market side are actually positive (one could use the word “diversity” instead of fragmentation in these cases). In many other cases fragmentation is bad. Bad with a capital B. In still other cases fragmentation can be a double-edged sword for a player on one side of the market.

Examples of positive fragmentation (diversity):

Market SideAxis of FragmentationPositive value
UsersDeviceSome users like physical keyboards. Some don’t. Some like pink. Some don’t.
CarriersUser InterfaceCarriers want to differentiate from competitors, and differentiate within the products they carry. Carriers want their brands to pervade the experience.
Device ManufacturersServiceDevice manufacturers want higher margins & recurring revenue that can come from providing services such as search & location.

Examples of negative fragmentation:

Market SideAxis of FragmentationNegative value
DevelopersOSDevelopers want to be able to reach as many end users as possible. Lots of OS variants means either investing in more dev/test or limiting market.
CarriersUser InterfaceEach new UI requires carrier’s customization to have to be ported. Raises costs. (Note this is an example of fragmentation being a double edged sword in some cases).
UsersMarketplaceEnd users want to be able to discover and acquire apps from as few places as possible.

Any commentary about fragmentation either needs to include all market sides and all axis or be very specific on which aspect is being discussed.  Jon’s article above is clearly about developers. You can obviously take the tables above and expand them to cover the entire 5 x 6 matrix. But even if you did, and tried to document all 60 rows, you’d quickly discover the following:

Not all players on a market side are the same; they differ in the value they provide and the value they expect to extract from others  . This is most pronounced on the OS providers side, and this gets to the core of the point of this post:

Google lost control of Android a long time ago and nothing it does will allow it to regain control. In fact, almost anything I tries will simply increase fragmentation along most fragmentation axes.

Remember we are talking about a complex multi-sided market (6 sides) with high-impedance between key sides of the market (see my “superior” post). The OS providers side of the market is dominated by Apple and Google. Microsoft is serious about being a 3rd player, and I believe they will push, push, push until they are. There’s also RIM and a few others, but it’s safe to ignore them here (Cue Scoble: “Charlie says Bada is dead”).

OS Providers Perspectives

  • Apple – Makes the vast majority of its money, by getting paid ~$150 up front from mobile operators per iPhone sold. The high-margin iPhone business will becomes a smaller relative portion of the overall Apple business. They are motivated to keep propping up this high-margin business as long as possible and to start leveraging their significant market share to grow revenue from services. Apple has caused an imbalance in the ecosystem by cutting 3rd parties out of the device manufacturer side of the market.
  • Google – Invested in Android believing they could own mobile search like they own web search by tying Android to Google search. At one point believed they could disrupt the carriers(but got slapped back, hard). Now, their desire to continue to invest in Android is still about search, but also about owning a social graph (via Google+) and being pissed as hell that Apple is so successful.  Google is deeply frustrated with the fragmentation of Android and has been trying all sorts of tactics to rein it in.
  • Microsoft – Feels stuck between the Apple & Google models. Going it alone, ala Apple, is not possible due to the fact that no carrier will ever let anyone else do what Apple did to them again. The Google model is way too similar to what the old Windows Mobile was like (irony much?).  Microsoft sees mobile as a means to an end (as Google does).  But the end is different. Where Google has only really one service it can monetize via mobile, Microsoft has several (Office, Xbox LIVE, etc.).  In addition Microsoft has a cash cow that is at serious risk due to Microsoft not being a key player in mobile: Windows. Microsoft must be relevant in mobile or Windows revenues will plummet because everything is going mobile. I think Microsoft really likes the fact it generates revenue from Android, but I doubt it has that much impact on the bottom line.

Only Apple directly profits from being an OS provider in the mobile ecosystem. For Google it is a cost center. Apple is the only OS provider that leaves device manufacturers out in the cold.

Smartphone device manufacturers now have two choices: Android or Windows Phone 7. As I noted in my “superior” post, Microsoft’s strategy of focusing on the quality of the user experience (which tends to minimize fragmentation along most axis) is counter to what device manufactures really want. I am glad Microsoft is following this strategy; it is pretty much the only strategy that makes sense given the hole they dug with Windows Mobile.  But this strategy does cause friction between Microsoft and device manufacturers/carriers when ideally you’d not want friction.

Google, on the other hand, gave device manufacturers exactly what they wanted with Android: Extreme flexibility and an open source license. That model is like crack cocaine for the likes of Samsung and HTC. They have had years to get addicted to it and, from their perspective (selling boatloads of devices) it’s working just dandy for them.

The carriers tend to encourage the device manufacturers here. They demand a variety of devices. They demand differentiation from their competitors. They control the marketing money spent on advertising. When Verizon writes something like $10B+ worth of checks every year for devices, who do you think they write them to? Hint: not Google.

Google’s Options

Google has some tactics that it might try (is trying) to use to rein in fragmentation. None of these will have a significant impact; in fact, most will make fragmentation worse.

  • Investing in the Nexus brand.Nexus is Google’s “pure” Android play. The idea is a phone with a more rigidly defined user experience, more consistent hardware, the latest OS with a consistent upgrade policy, a single marketplace, and consistent (Google endorsed) services. I love this strategy from an end-user’s perspective. Nexus phones will sell fairly well. But the numbers will pale in comparison to the non-Nexus phones sold. But Nexus will only be “fairly” successful because it is counter to what the carriers want and every dollar Google spends on advertising it incents the device manufactures and carriers to spend more on advertising their differentiated products.  Nexus actually worsens fragmentation along most axes by introducing yet another “Android model” into the mix.
  • Wishing Everyone Will Upgrade. This actually seems to be Google’s primary tactic. As Eric Schmidt said last week: ‘With Android, Google’s “core strategy” is to get everyone on Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of the platform.’  Google is trying to do this two ways:
  • Holding Back Access to Google Services. “Follow our rules or you can’t use Google Search”.  This just pisses Google’s partners off and smells like anti-trust. Not that it matters, because Google can’t really do this because there are enough reasonable alternatives to Google’s services now. In addition, the battle of the social graph is causing Google to push Google+ everywhere. What strategy tax at Google do you think will trump the other: Android consistency or Google+ everywhere?
  • Holding Back Access to the Latest Version of Android. “Follow our rules or you don’t get Ice Cream Sandwich, etc…”.  Uh, it’s open source. Fork. More fragmentation. Simply. Will. Not. Work.

None of these tactics will work, primarily because none of the other sides of the market have any motivation to help (other than end users, who would benefit, but consumers don’t really have enough power).  Secondarily, these tactics won’t work because Android has already been so fragmented and such a market success (in terms of units).

The early fragmentation of Android (across all axes) was the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent.

Buying Motorola Mobility, under-investing curating the marketplace, redesigning the user interface every release, not forcing the device manufacturers/carriers to consistently upgrade, and Google’s monopolistic behavior with search got the camel into the tent up to its first hump.

Android’s massive unit growth mean the camel is now already IN the tent. Android has become so successful that Google has lost control of it. And this, in turn, means Android, as a brand, will have a significantly diminished value over time.

Oh, and if after reading the above tome, you still don’t agree. Consider this article  about television. Remember, Android is not just about mobile…

UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up post for Lockergnome. Read it here.

I’d love to hear your comments. Keep it clean…

© Charlie Kindel. All Rights Reserved.

140 comments


  1. Very good points. Thank you very much for posting this.

  2. Anonymous

    Insightful post.. ” Microsoft’s strategy of focusing on the quality of the user experience (which tends to minimize fragmentation along most axis) is counter to what device manufactures really want. I am glad Microsoft is following this strategy; ” – I think u were part of the decision making team at Microsoft ! !

  3. Good stuff. So why didn’t you stick around to push WP7? You seem to have a lot of passion for it and I understand wanting to do new things but it seems like you just got started on WP7 when you left.

    But honestly, the biggest reason I can’t sell WP7 to my friends is Apps. Words with Friends, Google+ (believe it or not I have non-techie friends that use it for the ‘huddle’ feature), Pandora, and tons of random stuff like ZombieTube. You watch TV and a company will mention that you can download their app for iOS or Android, never WP7. When this changes, WP7 will really start to gain. Until then, it’s an extremely tough sell. I know, chicken before the egg.

    • Hi Adam,

      I’m an entrepreneur  at heart. My career is defined by me being in on the ground floor of things and getting them to take off velocity (or at least that’s my rationalization of it ). I like creating things, but I don’t like running the factories… 

      I’m not going to respond to your points about WP7 because this post is not about WP7.

    • Hi Adam,

      I’m an entrepreneur  at heart. My career is defined by me being in on the ground floor of things and getting them to take off velocity (or at least that’s my rationalization of it ). I like creating things, but I don’t like running the factories… 

      I’m not going to respond to your points about WP7 because this post is not about WP7.

    • Anonymous

      Like rats on a sinking ship…

  4. When Windows 7 came out more than half of Windows users were still using Windows XP and were happy with it. Think about it. 

    • Lun Esex

      So when Windows 7 came out only half of Windows users had upgraded to Windows Vista. When Windows 7 came out, how many Vista users didn’t upgrade? Certainly only a tiny fraction compared to the number of XP users who didn’t upgrade to Vista. This is all simply a damnation of Windows Vista. After Windows 8 comes out how many Windows users are likely to still be using Vista? Think about it.

      The only relevance this has to the fragmentation of Android is that it was also an undesirable state for the market to be in.

    • I know many of those users, “happy” is a relative term.

  5. Anonymous

    I agree that Android is a fragmented mess, but I’m not sure about your assessment that the Android brand will have a “significantly diminished value over time”. Won’t Google eventually create an Android version that essentially becomes their “Windows XP”, a baseline of compatibility that will last many years? As the older Android phones hit the landfill over time, Google will defrag by death!

    • thruthz,

      I attempted to address this in the part about “Investing in the Nexus Brand”.  If Google invests heavily in their baseline they have to also invest in a “brand”.  So far that brand is Nexus.  If they go big with that it will piss of Samsung etc… because it competes. Any money Google puts down building that brand (e.g advertising $) will just cause the other players to put more money down on THEIR android brands.  

      Note they could also do this with the Droid brand from Motorola.  I think the same thing will happen: it will further fragment the ecosystem and diminish the Android name.

      • Anonymous

        I believe Verizon actually owns the “Droid” brand. 

        • jasserota

          Droid is a Verizon thing, as the Droid name is spread across multiple OEMs – for example the Droid Incredible (HTC), Droid Charge (Samsung), etc.

          • Yep, I misspoke. Droid == Verizon.  My argument is still valid I think.

          • David Smith

            You haven’t explained how the increase in competition actually leads to more fragmentation. I think your argument goes well until you assert that, because if the Nexus brand was strengthened and became more popular, it would seem equally likely to entice the competitors to offer similar features, particularly timely OS upgrades and better UX. Plus, Google can pour far more resources into Android for making a UX that users actually desire then any of the competitors so I think there’s a reasonable expectation that a strong Nexus brand would encourage more “clones” to follow suite.

          • As you say: ”
             it would seem equally likely to entice the competitors to offer similar features,  ”

            SIMILAR features likely means “the same but different” which means “incompatible”. Thus more fragmentation (e.g. for developers).

            I agree Google can pour more resources into great Ux than device manufacturers. That does not change the fact that device manufacturers think they can create great Ux without Google’s help.

          • Dominik Smogór

             Competition comes from adding features to the customizations. Frequently stuff that debuted in Android N + skin M lands in Android N+1 or N+2.

  6. Great summary and overview. Totally agree.

    Google has only one real option, I think: innovate so fast and so hard and so well that everybody WANTS to be on the latest best most amazing version of Android … and the users push the carriers into delivering it.

    There is a power mismatch here, and it will not work for all, but it might work for some. I do see some advertising by carriers that hypes that XYZ device includes the latest version of Android.

    Google’s other option is to tie all its services tightly, as you mentioned, and upgrade in lockstep. This way lies antitrust …

    • Anonymous

      Re: “innovate so fast and so hard and so well that everybody WANTS to be on the latest best most amazing version”

      That’s what Apple does.  Works perfectly for them.  Good luck to Google resolving all those axes of fragmentation.

    • Dsmogor

       This is what basically they are doing with ICS – strong marketing push to promote it along with the flagship device, this is directed to devs but also technical inclined users and opinion leaders.
      The problem is that carriers can easily twist that to their advantage pushing *new* devices with ICS instead updating existing ones.  The only thing users can do is to produce bad PR for manufacturers (who rarely have last word here anyway),

  7. Anonymous

    One more option for Google:

    – Make All Motorola Phones Nexus Devices

    Now, Google has control over the software, hardware, user experience, and upgrade cycle for Motorola phones.  All Nexus phones (meaning all future Motorola phones) will receive upgrades immediately when Google releases a new version of Android, for as long as those upgrades can possibly run the hardware.

    Other device manufacturers will have a choice: Make their own devices “vanilla” Android devices like the Nexus or continuously lag behind Motorola in the features race.  If the other device manufacturers choose to keep up with Motorola by going vanilla, this will reduce fragmentation rather than increase it.

    • But those other manufacturers COMPETE with Motorola (and Google). THEIR customers (carriers) demand differentiation. They will not do as you say and “go vanilla”. 

      • Anonymous

        If the user experience of the Motorola/Google Nexus phones is better, and users have a sufficiently wide range of choices (keyboard vs. non-keyboard, different sizes, different price points), then Motorola/Google will start to dominate the market.

        At that point, Samsung, HTC, Sony, etc. will need to decide what customers care about most — custom skins like TouchWiz and Sense or keeping up with the latest Android versions.

        Ultimately, carriers care about how many people sign up for two-year contracts.  Differentiation between phones is only a means to this end.  That’s why Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are all selling iPhones, despite the lack of differentiation and the high carrier subsidies relative to Android.

        • Or carriers could decide they don’t like that strategy and shut Motorolla out of the market causes every single one of their devices to fail in the market they same way they did to the Nexus One. I really think you’re under-estimating how much influence carriers have.

          • Anonymous

            Why would carriers choose to not carry a phone that people want to buy?  That approach doesn’t seem to be working well for T-Mobile with regard to the iPhone.

            With the Nexus One, the main problem was the lack of user demand because of the lack of advertising, the high price, and a confusing subsidy model with (initially) multiple ETFs from both the carrier and Google.

            The Motorola Droid was the first truly successful Android phone, and it succeeded through a combination of Motorola’s hardware and Verizon’s marketing.  I find it hard to imagine Verizon, in particular, choosing to dump Motorola simply because it decides to remove the skin formerly known as MotoBlur from all its phones.  Is there really a high user demand for MotoBlur?  I don’t think so.

          • Alan

            T-Mobile can’t carry the iPhone because they’re on  a different GSM spectrum. So they’re left out for technical reasons.

          • Anonymous

            Because most people (i.e., all but the very small pool of techies and gadget fans) don’t buy phones that way? Most people stick with the same carrier and buy whatever phone they get cheap, which often means whatever one that carrier put on special that month.

          • See Verizon with the Galaxy Nexus. They much rather promote the Razr, and they did. Carriers also get to put bloatware in if there are skins.

            Again see what they did with the Nexus.

          • El Aura

            How many Android phone buyers today actively shop for ICS? That is the proportion that would actively shop for a line of Motorola Nexus phones, ie, maybe 10% of the Android market. Will that really be sufficient for the Motorola hardware business?

          • Anonymous

            How many buyers actively shop for Motoblur?

            The key question is whether skins like Blur and Wiz actually improve the overall user experience.  To the extent that they do, going to vanilla Android would detract from sales.  However, it seems to me that they add very little, and the features they do add tend to be greatly overshadowed by the benefit of being on the latest version of Android.

          • El Aura

            Very few shop for Motoblur but 90% of Motorola’s sales are because the carrier pushes the models. Withdraw carrier support and the sales of most handset makers would collapse. Motoblur is mainly there to give the sales clerk a phoney argument (which he can use to get his promotion fee of the months). 
            Carriers and handset makers want to be able to control what sells and what not, because then it is just between the two of them. They don’t want customers to have any sway on sales volume and spread. 

          • El Aura

            Very few shop for Motoblur but 90% of Motorola’s sales are because the carrier pushes the models. Withdraw carrier support and the sales of most handset makers would collapse. Motoblur is mainly there to give the sales clerk a phoney argument (which he can use to get his promotion fee of the months). 
            Carriers and handset makers want to be able to control what sells and what not, because then it is just between the two of them. They don’t want customers to have any sway on sales volume and spread. 

          • T-Mobile would sell the iPhone if the could.

      • I’m ok with the idea of only Motorola making “Nexus” phones, and by that I mean only phones with stock Android. At least people who want stock Android would have real choices, and it would also help Google have a stronger grip on Android’s main user interface.

    • Not an option in near future because WP is good enough that people would consider leaving if Google pulled a fast one. Also highly anti-competitive, they are already being investigated. This might be longer term goal but definitely not in the next 2-5 years which is what really matters isn’t it.

    • Anonymous

      I think many people have thought about the scenario where device manufacturers offers vanilla Android and does not hinder updates (or even release full Android upgrades themselves). After all, it has to be more profitable to release a stock Android phone than a customized one, right?

      However, the point I am always stuck on is if every hardware manufacturer went “vanilla” Android, how would they differentiate amongst themselves? How do they provide value so they can remain competitive against each other?

      If you’re HTC and competing against Samsung which can copy your physical hardware capabilities quickly, how do you sell your phones? Carriers might demand differentiation amongst devices but device manufacturers were probably already trying to find some way to make their phones unique.

      In the end, I believe that the article’s point is market forces are encouraging diversity today and Android’s continued success (at least in the short-term) relies on it. If all devices were vanilla Android, you would have less fragmentation but you would see hardware manufacturers eventually leave the market. Quite a fascinating crossroads for Android.

      • Have you seen the number of crap apps that come on a “customized” Android device? There are tons. Plus, the carriers don’t do direct OS support for each device, the manufacturers do.

      • Anonymous

        The question is how much of this investment in OEM skins really results in greater sales — the bottom line as far as device manufacturers are concerned.  Are there that many people who buy a Droid RAZR because they want MotoBlur, rather than because of the speed, specs, thinness, and overall aesthetic appeal of the hardware?

    • Problem is Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola has already noted that most of the phone customization they do isn’t because they want to, but “Verizon and AT&T do not want seven stock Android devices on their shelves.” Considering the amount of promotion the Droid RAZR got compared to the Galaxy Nexus, it’s obvious which phone they’d rather prefer to sell to their customers.

    • Anonymous

      Any of the device manufacturers could fork and maintain their own branches of Android. It would further increase fragmentation.

      If Amazon could do it, any of Samsung, HTC, LG, etc could. It’d be cheaper than building/maintaining their own OSes (as many of them have in the past, and which Samsung continues to do), they’d have Android app compatibility, and they’d be free from Google’s restrictions on services and whatnot.

      That would be a total loss for the user. Device manufacturers couldn’t care less about the end user. This is the same business model that lead to Bonzi Buddy coming preinstalled on your new VAIO, under the ironic umbrella of ‘value-adding services’.

      We’d be going back to the days of paying VZW a fee to enable the hardware already in your phone, and having their own crappy services substituted in for Google’s.

      All eyes are on Amazon; if they do even slightly well out of the strategy, you can bet at least one of the Android OEMs will experiment with a similar route (it’s hard for these guys to differentiate).

      • Anonymous

        Amazon is not analogous to Samsung and HTC. Actually, it is more analogous to Google itself. They are a services company, using devices, to spread the use of their services.

        Samsung and HTC make hardware, they don’t provide any of the supporting services, have no interest in trying to provide those services and would fail horribly if they tried.

        If they fork their own version on Android, guess what comes next? That’s right…Google cuts off their access to the Android Market. They could attempt to partner with Amazon, but then that will subject them to Amazon’s rules for accessing their App Store. They’re trading one dictator for another.

        This does not even take into consideration the carriers reaction. If Samsung/HTC made the pitch that they were no longer going to use Google services, and that they were either partnering with Amazon, or developing their own infrastructure, it would go over like a fart in church. The first one to try it, would see their sales numbers plummet, with the other standing there to pick up the pieces.

        The reason the Amazon model has a chance is because Amazon doesn’t care about search or the Android Market, which are Google’s products. All they care about is providing people a device for consuming Amazon’s media offerings, without having to compete against rival services (Google). Amazon can fork Android because even without Google, Amazon device users still have access to an App Store, music and video.

        Could you even imagine how terrible the experience would be if Samsung, HTC, Sony or LG actually tried to set up a services infrastructure?

        • Anonymous

          Samsung and HTC have been increasingly going in to services (their own proprietary cloud sync services are all over their phones), but I don’t imagine they’d go in to most of the services themselves: they’d partner with (for example) Bing. The thing they can’t replace is the Android market.

          The incentive to do this is extra revenue: see Motorola’s deal with Skyhook for location data which was ultimately scuppered when Google refused to let the phone launch. Life as an Android OEM is fragile (see HTC vs Samsung, who knows who it’ll be next year and if anyone else will even make a profit?).

          Motorola are the best example of that. Not only blackmailing Google for a buyout, but taking on these extra deals like they’re desperate for cash. The recent deal with Intel is, I suspect, driven by the fear that the Google deal might not go through (the failed AT&T merger is not a good sign as to the mood of the antitrust authorities). Intel are desperate for some foothold in the smartphone space, and have buckets of cash to throw at it. No doubt it was a lucrative deal, but I’m sceptical to say the least of Intel’s claims.

          So there’s a good incentive to cutting Google out and replacing it with 3rd party service providers. How would the carriers respond? With a party! They love control! Take Verizon’s replacement of Google with Bing search as an example; do you think they wouldn’t also love the chance to shovel out a new VZ Navigator to replace Maps, too? I can’t rationally explain it, but they love this crap. As I read this market, I could totally see them replacing the Android market with their own crud as well. They feel entitled to a slice of everything that happens on their network – that includes that 30% slice of App sales revenue, as well. Mobile payments is another example.

          Yeah, it would totally suck for end users. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Again, since Amazon looks to be having some decent success with the Kindle Fire; I predict that one of the fledgling Android OEMs (possibly HTC or Motorola if the Google deal fails) will fork Android to replace most of Google’s services with 3rd-party (including carrier) provided services and shovel ware.

          • Anonymous

            The only flaw I can see to what your saying is one thing, cost.

            No device manufacturer or carrier, can beat the quality of services that Google offers, at the price point…free.

            Any attempt to develop their own services, necessarily means that their costs will rise, therefore their prices. How many customers will be rushing into VZW to buy a more expensive, lower quality, version of Android? One with no Android Market, forced use of Bing, no Gmail app, no Google Voice, No Google Music, no free navigation app, etc, etc…

            The only companies capable of directly competing with Google for services, are already doing it, Apple and Amazon.

          • Anonymous

            Most Android users that I know don’t have any loyalty to Android. They wouldn’t see it as a bastardised Android, it’d be something just very different. They’d buy it for the same reason they buy Android phones today: because that’s what the guy in the shop recommended and it has a big screen and a keyboard and whatever. They don’t buy it for the ideological purity of Android and Google services.

            You’re right that they can’t beat Google’s offering on quality, but that’s never mattered. They’ll get back control, and the users will take it: in the US at least, users stay with a provider because of the big difference in network quality as much as the choice of phones. There’s not going to be a mass exodus because of it. The carriers also stand to gain massively if they can pull this off to become a middleman in App sales and especially mobile payments.

            Actually, it’s interesting that we’re talking about the carriers: they’re the ones wearing the trousers in this relationship. Google controls the services in Android because the carriers let them (for now). The device manufacturers are building devices to the carriers’ (not only technical, but also business) requirements. Are you sure it’s always going to be in their business interests to let Google provide all Android services?

            Basically, the point I’m making is that Google’s services are not free: they come at an opportunity cost. From the point of view of the carriers and manufacturers, those services are potential 3rd party bundle-ware deals or profitable businesses in their own right. If there was competition for those places – access to the carriers valuable subscribers – they’d make even more money out of you.

    • 8 monthd have gone by we still don’t have ICS = Motorola phone

  8. Perhaps one more option is for Google to invest large marketing dollars supporting any handset vendor or carrier that carries “pure” Android and does what Google wants. More carrot, less stick. 

  9. AppleFUD

    At this point the whole fragmentation issue is much to do about nothing. It’s what clueless people throw out in an attempt to make their proffered platform look better. 

    1. most user have no clue and don’t care–if an app doesn’t work they will find another that does. 

    2. hardware competition has been accelerated due to Android thus anyone that has a clue wants the latest and greatest device, thus they’ll have the latest OS as well–only Android currently offers this level of competition on the hardware side–ios & wp7 will put us into a world of slow chips because they lock in with a partner and that partner doesn’t need to do anything to keep that lock-in. . . until now–since we have a open competitor.

    3. If we compare to iOS–at least with Android you have a chance of getting the latest features where apple restricts and pushes users to upgrade every year. this is a faulty argument–apple does NOT upgrade old hardware, they only update it thus each ios device is fragmented running a different OS–the ios5 for the 3GS is different than ios5on 4 & 4s, etc

    if Android users were upgrading at the pace of iphone users there would be little OS fragmentation lol. and hardware manufacturers would be having wet dreams nightly.

    4. Android is just getting out of diapers. the OS is now more full grown and the major upgrades will slow, thus carriers and OEMs will be able to upgrade devices better. no way were carriers going to push major upgrades every 3 to six months.

    5. Android devices are NOT “Android.” they are only “Android compatible.” Only the Nexus line is truly Android and it is updated better than the iphone & WP7 thus any Android user that wants “ios/wp7 updates” can have it ;)

    Each platform has it’s pluses and minuses. The big thing with Android is, it offers lots of choice to carriers, OEMs, and users–most users don’t have a clue and choose based on god knows what and there in is Android’s secret sauce–the user feels like they have “choice.” they can choose a device running Sense/TouchWiz/MotoBlur UI or go with stock android or even flash a custom ROM. And people love that stuff–they feel in control, like they get to make the device their own, even if that really isn’t the case.

    OS fragmentation. . . well, developers still write an app that works on WinXP, Vista, and Win7 and that covers a hell of a lot more than two years.

    meh. . . let the fanboys rage on over stupid sh!t.

  10. AppleFUD

    At this point the whole fragmentation issue is much to do about nothing. It’s what clueless people throw out in an attempt to make their proffered platform look better. 
    1. most user have no clue and don’t care–if an app doesn’t work they will find another that does. 

    2. hardware competition has been accelerated due to Android thus anyone that has a clue wants the latest and greatest device, thus they’ll have the latest OS as well–only Android currently offers this level of competition on the hardware side–ios & wp7 will put us into a world of slow chips because they lock in with a partner and that partner doesn’t need to do anything to keep that lock-in. . . until now–since we have a open competitor.

    3. If we compare to iOS–at least with Android you have a chance of getting the latest features where apple restricts and pushes users to upgrade every year. this is a faulty argument–apple does NOT upgrade old hardware, they only update it thus each ios device is fragmented running a different OS–the ios5 for the 3GS is different than ios5on 4 & 4s, etc

    if Android users were upgrading at the pace of iphone users there would be little OS fragmentation lol. and hardware manufacturers would be having wet dreams nightly.

    4. Android is just getting out of diapers. the OS is now more full grown and the major upgrades will slow, thus carriers and OEMs will be able to upgrade devices better. no way were carriers going to push major upgrades every 3 to six months.

    5. Android devices are NOT “Android.” they are only “Android compatible.” Only the Nexus line is truly Android and it is updated better than the iphone & WP7 thus any Android user that wants “ios/wp7 updates” can have it ;)

    Each platform has it’s pluses and minuses. The big thing with Android is, it offers lots of choice to carriers, OEMs, and users–most users don’t have a clue and choose based on god knows what and there in is Android’s secret sauce–the user feels like they have “choice.” they can choose a device running Sense/TouchWiz/MotoBlur UI or go with stock android or even flash a custom ROM. And people love that stuff–they feel in control, like they get to make the device their own, even if that really isn’t the case.

    OS fragmentation. . . well, developers still write an app that works on WinXP, Vista, and Win7 and that covers a hell of a lot more than two years.

    meh. . . let the fanboys rage on over stupid sh!t.

  11. AppleFUD

    At this point the whole fragmentation issue is much to do about nothing. It’s what clueless people throw out in an attempt to make their proffered platform look better. 
    1. most user have no clue and don’t care–if an app doesn’t work they will find another that does. 

    2. hardware competition has been accelerated due to Android thus anyone that has a clue wants the latest and greatest device, thus they’ll have the latest OS as well–only Android currently offers this level of competition on the hardware side–ios & wp7 will put us into a world of slow chips because they lock in with a partner and that partner doesn’t need to do anything to keep that lock-in. . . until now–since we have a open competitor.

    3. If we compare to iOS–at least with Android you have a chance of getting the latest features where apple restricts and pushes users to upgrade every year. this is a faulty argument–apple does NOT upgrade old hardware, they only update it thus each ios device is fragmented running a different OS–the ios5 for the 3GS is different than ios5on 4 & 4s, etc

    if Android users were upgrading at the pace of iphone users there would be little OS fragmentation lol. and hardware manufacturers would be having wet dreams nightly.

    4. Android is just getting out of diapers. the OS is now more full grown and the major upgrades will slow, thus carriers and OEMs will be able to upgrade devices better. no way were carriers going to push major upgrades every 3 to six months.

    5. Android devices are NOT “Android.” they are only “Android compatible.” Only the Nexus line is truly Android and it is updated better than the iphone & WP7 thus any Android user that wants “ios/wp7 updates” can have it ;)

    Each platform has it’s pluses and minuses. The big thing with Android is, it offers lots of choice to carriers, OEMs, and users–most users don’t have a clue and choose based on god knows what and there in is Android’s secret sauce–the user feels like they have “choice.” they can choose a device running Sense/TouchWiz/MotoBlur UI or go with stock android or even flash a custom ROM. And people love that stuff–they feel in control, like they get to make the device their own, even if that really isn’t the case.

    OS fragmentation. . . well, developers still write an app that works on WinXP, Vista, and Win7 and that covers a hell of a lot more than two years.

    meh. . . let the fanboys rage on over stupid sh!t.

    • Your OS fragmentation point is weak. Windows is a fairly mature OS developed by one company running on a fairly mature hardware platform; Android is a rapidly-evolving OS customized by many companies running on a rapidly-evolving hardware platform.

      • Anonymous

        Actually, it’s spot on. Look at the amount of apps and games that don’t work on Windows 7 that work on XP.  Hell, even Microsoft tried to sabotage XP by making games not compatible with it. 

    • Anonymous

      “3. -apple does NOT upgrade old hardware, they only update it thus each ios device is fragmented running a different OS–the ios5 for the 3GS is different than ios5on 4 & 4s, etc”
       Not sure why you chose to differentiate between the terms “update” and “upgrade”… But anyway…That is nowhere near the amount of “fragmentation” that occurs when your device receives no update at all.  As a user, most of the major features still come to the older devices. As a developer, the fact that older hardware will get the latest OS means I can start using APIs and new under the hood features in my apps and know that they will run on the majority of the user base. 

      • AppleFUD

        How’s Siri working on the 3GS & 4 and hows implementing the API’s for that on the 3GS & 4 working out for you? — don’t argue the hardware won’t support it, we’ve seen it does.

        ;)

        Seriously, would you rather have an “update” to the OS or a full upgrade that gives you all the features the OS has to offer? Thus, back to my argument, only the ‘Nexus’ line is Android and it is updated & upgraded much better than any iphone ;)

        Question is, will WP7 go the route of ios and give “partial upgrades” or the route of Android and give full upgrades if the hardware supports it?

        apple forces hardware upgrades by limiting hardware in previous versions–low RAM & poor cameras come to mind–and restricting OS features to only the latest hardware. 

        So, I can pay $700 for a new iPhone to get a real FULL upgrade and all the features or a Nexus and get them for as long as the device’s hardware will allow or buy any “android OEM” device and if the carrier or OEM doesn’t upgrade it I can spend a little time figuring out how to flash a custom ROM for free–any way you look at it iOS is a lot more expensive to get the same thing you would get on Android, and maybe WP7, as a user.

        Devs will go wherever there is money to be made–as if Mac & Windows isn’t fragmented and all software development failed because of that. . . . come on!

        • Anonymous

          Again, a matter of degrees which you’re ignorning.

          An iPhone 4 not getting Siri isn’t the same as a Samsung Infuse 4G not getting Ice Cream Sandwich (did that one ever even get Gingerbread?).
          Apple doesn’t “force” hardware upgrades, after all they still *sell* the 3GS and iPhone 4, without Siri! They do at times only offer features on their current high end device – whether or not you upgrade is up to you.
          Would I rather have an “update”? Ok let’s rank the three

          Best: Full update with all new features
          Middle: An upgrade without every latest feature – this is what happens to some iOS devices and to most computers in general Worst: No update at all – this is what happens to countless Android devices and is what people are referring to most when they say fragmentation. Excluding Nexus devices from this doesn’t really say much as they do not make up the majority of Android devices sold.
          Again again, a matter of degrees. People are reserving the term “fragmentation” for the place where it appears to be the biggest problem. Comparing to Mac and Windows isn’t fully applicable, as has been said – those platforms are far more mature and major releases are much further apart chronologically.

          • AppleFUD

            It doesn’t matter how far apart the releases are if they make up a major part of the user base–that’s why it is a relevant argument to use Mac & Win. It’s about what the developers need to write for in order to hit the majority of consumers, no?

            Like most that argue for apple/ios upgrades being better you ignore the Nexus line completely. As I’ve stated, it’s about choice. Android has it–if I don’t like Samsung/Verizon upgrade cycle I just get a Nexus and I get the best of everything–fast FULL upgrades ;)

            I’m not ignoring the degrees at all. You are spot picking your arguments and ignoring the full reality of Android–you can get a Nexus = full upgrades as long as the hardware can support it, an OEM “Android compatible” device = almost all get at least one major upgrade = over a year support, flash custom ROMs = extend life for a very long time, etc. An Android user just has more choice on every level. And the developer isn’t dealing with anything worse than they’ve had to deal with for the past 30 years.

          • Anonymous

            Heh, sounds like you’re ignoring the full reality of Android, by only spot picking that Nexus phones get updates. Great, a small percentage of the customer base can expect timely updates. Job well done, carriers, manufacturers, and Google! I think not. Hence why they’re trying pretty hard to reign that under control. No one said there weren’t more choices with Android. But it turns out a lot of them are terrible choices- it’s a double edged sword.

          • AppleFUD

            but you fail to see that users–the people buying the devices–clearly don’t give a shit.

            All this BS is only for apple/ms fans (Android haters) to get all worked up over. Any knowledgeable smartphone user will pick wisely.

            Nexus will get the best update/upgrade
            wp7 second
            iphone third–only partial after 1st year most likely.
            android OEM compatible devices fourth–may or may not get update depending on device/OEM/carrier
            etc. . .

            Choose what you KNOW is best for you. If you like custom ROMS then any Android OEM device if good. If you want to be ensured long term full upgrades then Nexus or WP7 for you. If a 3.5″ screen is the bees knees to you then iphone can be all yours, etc.

            However, as I stated in my initial argument as #1, average customers don’t care about any of this. Thus Android is the fastest growing OS ever and killing all other mobile platforms.

            This whole “fragmentation” BS is nothing more than an opportunity for haters to sling some mud. Average users just don’t care. They may in the future, but they clearly do not now, and carriers and OEMs love the “fragmentation” of Android because it’s choice/differentiation for them.

            Thus, we could argue that Android is great because it offers so much more choice and a little fragmentation is very acceptable for everyone to have more choice. . .blah, blah, blah. . .

            Funny thing is, apple fans like yourself will defend anything about apple and you think anyone that points out facts that don’t support apple fully and completely is therefore a fanboy of another platform. I’m in no way a fan of any of these platforms. I’m a fan of competition–the more the better, really hope RIM pulls it back to add more competition.

            This is just the current reality of the mobile ecosystem and why things are going the way they are–like it or not. Carriers & OEMs want choice = differentiation = fragmentation. And users LOVE choice and the ability to customize their gadgets = fragmentation. And at the moment only Android is offering ALL those options to all parties.

            You seem to think that I’m arguing that this is “all good” and there is no down side. If you think then you’ve missed a bit.

            The perfect world would start with carriers being nothing more than dumb data pipe lines ;)  — Google initially was trying for this and the carriers slapped them down and told them flat out that they would not allow Android onto their networks, thus Google had to allow choice = differentiation = fragmentation. Though, I have to agree it is better than no choice or only one choice.

          • Ade

            In reality vast numbers of “android” users do no even know they have android. They get the phone because it’s “free” and don’t use many features other than phone and sms ooh and camera. Hardly scientific I know but from the people I know Android people fall into two perhaps three camps. 1)Hardcore who salivate over hardware and OS and like the choice2)People who consider iPhone is too expensive 3)People who do not give a toss about the OS what so ever. It is simply a phone to them. Person type 3 probably adds up to a huge number in this device activation numbers

          • AppleFUD

            #2 probably not so true these days–iphone 3GS $0, 4 $99, 4S $199+
            Especially with many of the top Android phones being $250

            #1 Hardcore and I would add maybe knowledgeable moderate users in that group–those that want more “flexibility” with their device.

            #3 I think this is the majority of smartphone users in general regardless of the device they buy. even a lot of iphone users are probably buying only because they’ve been told to buy it by a friend who is “knowledgeable”–it’s amazing how clueless most smartphone users are–you know, like the person that thinks they still need an ipod when they have an iphone and ask, can I play music on my iphone = facepalm.

            I certainly agree that at this point in time most smartphone users are not paying attention to the  OS.

          • AppleFUD

            Oh, btw. . . to argue that apple is still selling the 3GS and then argue about updates/upgrades is a bit hypocritical.

            here we have apple selling a new device that is missing many features of the current OS and can’t handle all the latest and greatest apps that the current iphone can. That’s just as fragmented for the user as anything Android has.

          • Anonymous

            Oh, but it does have the vast majority of the new features and APIs. Same can’t be said for many low end Android phones that ship with an old OS version, then never get even a hint of an official update.

          • AppleFUD

            6 Vs 1/2 dozen = your argument.

    • You seem to be underestimating the importance of a vibrant app market, which will suffer immensely. Right now there simply isn’t a good incentive for app developers to target ICS for  instance. No cool apps, no users, no developers, no platform.

      • AppleFUD

        lol. ..  that’s why Android is the top mobile OS and the app market is almost caught up with apple’s. . .  I see. . .no, I guess I don’t.

        • Ronin48

          Android is the most prevalent mobile phone OS because 

          a) Google gives it away at a loss to device makers

          b) non-Apple device makers can’t get iOS and can’t/won’t design their own OS

          P.S.  The top mobile OS and the most prevalent mobile OS, which includes tablets, is as you surely know, Apple iOS.  Sorry.  I’m sure that bothers you.

          • AppleFUD

            Google only counts device activations–that ignores many devices and ios had a little head start, and no it doesn’t bother me in the least if it out sells Android.

            A. You really think Google is taking a loss? I guess you skipped the entire article–re-read it and understand how Google is using Android.

            B. So, what’s Bada? 

          • kibbles

            google gets the majority of its mobile advertising income from iOS, not android!

            they do not make money on Android.

          • Which VERSION of Android are you saying is the most prevalent? There are SO MANY 
            and specialized Amazon’s. Samsung’s, and others, At a last look it was the AMAZON Kindle Fire version of Android selling the best for an Android tablet at least. 

            There are so many and none of our Android phones have been updated to ICS in 8 months now,  while our IPhones are up to date. We also have one Windows phone. 7 people = 7 phones. It is possible to use Apple, Microsoft and Android and not fight. That does not change the fact that the 3 who have Android phones in our home are not happy.

    • 1. Which is OK if you don’t have to pay for the Apps. That could be why Developers aren’t making great Android Apps.
      2. The device is latest and greatest for a few weeks at most before it is superseded by the next latest and greatest. Usually the Latest and Greatest suffers due to the experimental nature of the technologies.
      The Rat Race may be accelerated by Android, but Android Users are the Rat’s being exploited by it.
      3. The only iOS Devices that did not have software support for at least two years after sale were the 8GB iPhone 3G and 8GB 3rd Generation iPod Touches. All other devices have had current OS’s available for the 2-year lifetime of the device.
      4. Android Development is stagnating. It has reached the limits of a Java VM sitting on top of a Linux Kernel.
      5. The Nexus brand is loosing exclusivity. Nexus One only runs Gingerbread. Verizon want the TouchWiz Crapware bundled with the Galaxy Nexus. That would be as ridiculous as the iPad not running iOS 5 or the Nokia Lumia 800 having Symbian running on top of WP7.

    • Forum

      Androids user satisfaction has fallen to 40% since introduction. It started at 75%.

      iOS has remained above 90% since introduction.

      Android is now ranked less than feature phones in user satisfaction.

      It would seem consumers are noticing that over the years android phones are becoming more and more difficult to use, despite the OS upgrades.

      What’s been increasing over the years? Did someone say fragmentation

      • AppleFUD

        That sounds like the old tried and ‘true’ arguments for PC Vs Mac. How’s that been working out?

        Seems you missed a main point of my argument. The Nexus line is where Android users will go if they get frustrated with carriers & OEMs not providing proper updates & upgrades, not necessarily ios or wp7.

        See, that’s the point. Android has a wide range for customers to choose from. I won’t buy an iphone because the 3.5″ screen is just flat out annoying to use for me–I would rather have a dumb phone. I like something around 4.5″ screen but apple would rather try and convince me that I don’t need that than to offer me some choice–people love choice. Get it? It’s about choice. And right now Android is giving choice to everyone–end users, OEMs, and carriers. While some of that choice ends up sucking for customers–OEM/carrier bloat-ware & crappy updates–there still are choices for the customer to get exactly what they want–Nexus gives direct updates & upgrades to the user for as long as the hardware will allow, custom ROMs, and we aren’t talking gimped limited upgrades like apple does to it’s iphone line up.

        It’s all about choice–the choice in Android allows for more competition between carriers and manufacturers which ends up creating better devices for the end user to choose from–hardware has greatly accelerated since the introduction of Android. Apple lacks this and wp7 isn’t really driving it very well either and that’s the key point, like it or not. Choice that leads to competition is the winning combination. I know, that’s a foreign idea to apple & apple fans.

    • You’re serious or was this a joke? You said “anyone that has a clue wants the latest and greatest device thus they’ll have the latest OS as well–only Android currently offers this level of competition on the hardware side” Only if you buy a new phone! There are hundreds? Thousands? of Android phone’s. Most of us don’t want to have to buy a new one every other week being how often they are released. 
      “Android should be “out of diapers” ” 
      It’s not yet and since the release was in 2008, why not? 

      We have 7 phone’s in the house not one Android phone has been updated to ICS, not one. The IPhone’s are updated and the next update to IOS is upcoming. You say IOS does not upgrade hardware, DUH what does other than buying a new phone? 

      You say “At least with Android you have a chance” NOT We purchased 3 Android phone’s not one received ICS. The 3 IPhones are UP TO DATE and at least it covered and updated our OLD 3GS! We will also buy a new one, at least it’s only once a year!! And you said ” there in is Android’s secret sauce–the user feels like they have “choice.” they can choose a device running Sense/TouchWiz/MotoBlur UI or go with stock android or even flash a custom ROM. And people love that stuff–they feel in control, like they get to make the device their own, even if that really isn’t the case” So Android likes or the users are like the cult you accuse Apple likers of being in, whatever, that’s the most insulting thing I’ve read about ownind my Android devices yet. And you say “Fanboys” Android or  Apple ? “rage on over their stupid S**””  I think that you already have taken care of that. 

  12. I have three major issues with this post:

    First, you say Google is deeply frustrated about fragmentation and has been trying all sorts of things to reign it in. What evidence do you have of this? Both Schmidt and Duarte gave interviews last week where fragmentation was brought up. Both redefined fragmentation and dismissed it as a non-issue. They have made no public effort to reign it in. It’s possible that they’re trying to fix it in private, but I doubt it. 

    Second, you say that Google could withhold services like search, but that that strategy wouldn’t work. I agree – that strategy doesn’t make sense. What does make sense, however, would be to withhold the Android Market and Google Apps. 

    Third, you say that they can’t hold back the latest version of Android because it’s open source. The obvious solution to that is to not open source the latest version of Android (they never realsed Honeycomb). To keep open source fans happy, keep the latest release closed until the next release, then open source it. 

    Let me know what you think. Like I said I Twitter, I really like your TL;DR summary. Nice work. 

    • Holding back the source to Honeycomb as long as possible, trying to require OEMs to always ship the default theme, “strategy is get everyone to ICS”, are all examples of Google trying to reign in fragmentation. 

      I treat marketplace separate from Services but for your question we can just make it a service. Google apps are also “services”.  Re-read my point about Services with this in mind. 

      They can’t NOT open source the latest. The OSS license they choose (GPL) requires that they do. 

      • Most of Android (besides the kernel) is Apache/BSD/LGPL. That means they *have* to release only the LGPL parts, not everything as a whole. (just like they didn’t release HoneyComb). I’m not saying late open-source is a good idea, but Google can do it.

        • But, Yoav, if Google did this,  that would cause the device manufactures to take the already OSS’d versions and run with them (like Amazon did with the Fire).

          • El Aura

            But how many years can Amazon run with 2.3.x without investing itself into a huge amount of money or stagnating in features?

          • kibbles

            they forked. they can release their own updates whenever they like.

          • El Aura

            Yes, but now Amazon has to do all the work of keeping their fork competitive. If they have to duplicate all the work Google did to create ICS, it will be a significant cost to them.

      • It could be argued that holding back the source for HC was because they wanted to wait for ICS since HC was basically a beta release. Their requirement to have the Holo theme doesn’t mean that manufacturers can’t put their own theme on top, which doesn’t do much for user experience fragmentation. Getting everyone to ICS is a nice goal, but it’s the same goal they had with Gingerbread and it doesn’t stop user experience fragmentation (the largest issue in my opinion). 

        Your argument for services is based on the idea that people can get services from other places. That’s technically true, but I have a feeling many like having Google’s app services like Gmail and Maps. You can certainly get some of those services through other apps, but it’s not the same experience. 

        They can avoid license issues by using a different kind of license. 

        At the end of the day, Google needs to start increasing its requirements to use Android. That’s the only way to make these changes happen. If manufacturers want to use open source Android and make your own crazy experience, that’s fine, but they should have to use the old version. Google keeps insisting that eventually fragmentation will go away because of market forces. I really doubt that will work. 

      • El Aura

        Really? Why can’t Google release a new version of Android as closed source? Sure, a lot of the code will be open source because it comes from Linux (and other open source projects), but Mac OS X is not open-source despite containing a lot of open source code. Heck, even if they have to rename it…
        Of course, the risk is that carriers and handset makers flock to WP or follow the Kindle Fire model. But in the medium term that would place the cost of maintaining the current Android fork onto the carriers. 

      • Anonymous

        The only part of Android that applies to the GPL is the Linux kernel.  Everything else is Apache and they can do whatever they want with it.

    • Anonymous

      “First, you say Google is deeply frustrated about fragmentation and has been trying all sorts of things to reign it in. What evidence do you have of this?”
      Don’t forget the supposed “agreement” they announced where Android devices would be supported with updates 18 months after their release (not that we’ve heard much about that since then).

      • Yeah… I’m pretty sure even Google has forgotten about that. I’m guessing it was mostly a PR move. The last I heard (which was months ago), they were still figuring out how they were going to implement that. Until they update us on the status of the agreement I’d say it was a PR move and nothing more. 

    • Anonymous

      As usual, he’s talking out of his ass.  He’s just an astroturfer trying to pimp WP7 by continually attacking Android.  It’s actually quite pathetic.

    • Anonymous

      As usual, he’s talking out of his ass.  He’s just an astroturfer trying to pimp WP7 by continually attacking Android.  It’s actually quite pathetic.

  13. Anonymous

    I thought this was a really fascinating article. 
    I don’t think there’s enough incentive for anyone (besides developers, for which fragmentation seems like nothing but a negative) to make any effort to fix this fragmentation. And, although fragmentation irritates me, I would bet it doesn’t bother the vast majority of consumers. Either because they don’t care or aren’t aware.

    • Anonymous

      I agree that the average customer has no idea about fragmentation and probably doesn’t even know what version of Android he’s using.  Developers may not like fragmentation, but that hasn’t stopped them from writing 400,000 apps, closing rapidly on iOS’ 500,000.

      I don’t think fragmentation is anywhere near a critical problem with Android, but reduced fragmentation would be better, because it would mean that new versions of Android would roll out faster to more phones.

  14. Great well thought out article! Thanks!

    It makes me think even more about Android’s success. It is clear that Android (not Google) is a complete success. It grew out of nowhere, and as you say, will not be going away anytime soon.

    One thing that I’m curious about is whether or not Android was a success for Google. I’m not sure if it’s still true, but I’ve read that Google gets more mobile revenue from iOS than it does from Android. Android is a cost center for Google. What does Google really get in return? Google likes to tout how much money it makes from mobile search on Android devices, but there is no way to calculate how much extra money they make by having Android (i.e. if Android didn’t exist, all those smart-phone users would be using an iPhone or another smartphone that would likely be generating revenue for Google as well).

    Maybe Google was worried about losing control of mobile search, although I doubt that Apple would have ever entertained thoughts about entering the search market had Google remained a friend.

    As Android takes on a life of its own, its also not clear to me how much control even Android gives to Google. Amazon is no friend of Google and is a growing presence in tablets and likely in phones as well sometime soon. As Samsung’s power in smartphones grows, It also wouldn’t surprise me if Samsung decides that it doesn’t need Google anymore either and creates its own fork of Android. Almost half of Android devices are Samsung devices, so if Samsung created its own fork, it would have almost as much control over Android as Google does.

    • Anonymous

      Really?  Is that was you really think?  Because a Samsung phone with no Google services such as turn by turn navigation, the Google Market and the plethora of other free Google services would be a disaster.  They might as well put Bada on it.

    • Anonymous

      Really?  Is that was you really think?  Because a Samsung phone with no Google services such as turn by turn navigation, the Google Market and the plethora of other free Google services would be a disaster.  They might as well put Bada on it.

      • Kizedek

        Do you feel it would be a disaster because Android users expect stuff for free?

        For example, there are several good app alternatives on iOS for turn-by-turn navigation. I use one that is about 6 bucks and I am very happy with the features. These clearly tap into the free Google services that Google generally makes available to anyone, without using the “special” versions of services that Google reserves for its most compliant clients.

        It just takes some clever developer deciding to make a business of providing a turn-by-turn solution. Still, if developers don’t think their time is worth it and they won’t be making a load of sales where they get 4.20 per sale, then I guess this article has some good points.

      • Fadzlan

        They may substitute services in phases.
        Probably wouldn’t happen though. Either way, Google’s services would still be available in the browser. 

        But the thing is, even if its unthinkable now that Samsung would do that, the nature of open source made it possible. See- Amazon. Its a choice that Samsung have anytime they wish. Someone may come along with a drop in replacement for Google Services, or they just think that having control helps their bottom line that they might just do that.

        The mobile industry now moves at a very fast pace. In 6 months, things may look very different, we wouldn’t know.

        Consider the situation of some China manufacturer that choose to fork Android. It may not make sense, and the implementation probably sucks, but they can do it. And if there is anybody who can make things better with a huge engineering resource, Samsung can be the one. They can choose not to, or they can choose to do it. Either way, its a choice they can make, thanks to Android’s nature.

        And even if they do, it may not hurt Google badly anyway. Google still earn with the ad from smartphones. For the user, I’m not so sure, it can be bad or good. For developer, it means having another OS to support, depending on how much variation is the fork being different from mainline Android. 

      • Fadzlan

        They may substitute services in phases.
        Probably wouldn’t happen though. Either way, Google’s services would still be available in the browser. 

        But the thing is, even if its unthinkable now that Samsung would do that, the nature of open source made it possible. See- Amazon. Its a choice that Samsung have anytime they wish. Someone may come along with a drop in replacement for Google Services, or they just think that having control helps their bottom line that they might just do that.

        The mobile industry now moves at a very fast pace. In 6 months, things may look very different, we wouldn’t know.

        Consider the situation of some China manufacturer that choose to fork Android. It may not make sense, and the implementation probably sucks, but they can do it. And if there is anybody who can make things better with a huge engineering resource, Samsung can be the one. They can choose not to, or they can choose to do it. Either way, its a choice they can make, thanks to Android’s nature.

        And even if they do, it may not hurt Google badly anyway. Google still earn with the ad from smartphones. For the user, I’m not so sure, it can be bad or good. For developer, it means having another OS to support, depending on how much variation is the fork being different from mainline Android. 

  15. Great well thought out article! Thanks!

    It makes me think even more about Android’s success. It is clear that Android (not Google) is a complete success. It grew out of nowhere, and as you say, will not be going away anytime soon.

    One thing that I’m curious about is whether or not Android was a success for Google. I’m not sure if it’s still true, but I’ve read that Google gets more mobile revenue from iOS than it does from Android. Android is a cost center for Google. What does Google really get in return? Google likes to tout how much money it makes from mobile search on Android devices, but there is no way to calculate how much extra money they make by having Android (i.e. if Android didn’t exist, all those smart-phone users would be using an iPhone or another smartphone that would likely be generating revenue for Google as well).

    Maybe Google was worried about losing control of mobile search, although I doubt that Apple would have ever entertained thoughts about entering the search market had Google remained a friend.

    As Android takes on a life of its own, its also not clear to me how much control even Android gives to Google. Amazon is no friend of Google and is a growing presence in tablets and likely in phones as well sometime soon. As Samsung’s power in smartphones grows, It also wouldn’t surprise me if Samsung decides that it doesn’t need Google anymore either and creates its own fork of Android. Almost half of Android devices are Samsung devices, so if Samsung created its own fork, it would have almost as much control over Android as Google does.

    • Anonymous

      I have been wondering the exact same thing.

      The costs to Google for Android have been extraordinary: the original undisclosed purchase price of the Android company (and presumably some choice extras to lock in key players like Andy Rubin); the ongoing and rising costs of the development and support staff for Android; the $12+ billion purchase price of Motorola, which doubtless would not had happened without Android ballooning into such a large part of Google’s efforts; the narrowing of options to Google as they dance an ever more careful tango with their Android partners, thanks to the Motorola purchase; the hidden but significant costs of integrating the very, very different cultures of Google and Motorola; and, as you mention, the alienation of their once-close partner Apple. That is a very big pile of costs.

      Where are the benefits? As you say, it isn’t clear that Android has helped Google’s bottom line in search / advertising, and has possibly harmed it, as frenemy Apple has created iAds–and arguably more importantly, Siri–in direct competition, while some Android “partners” like Amazon have ditched Google’s products for their own search engines and browsers. At best, the search/ads profit angle appears to be a very long play right now on Google’s part. Perhaps it’s a play that they are forced to make to keep relevant in the mobile search space.

      All this makes me think that Andy Rubin’s constant trumpeting of Android’s activation numbers is targeted at a very specific audience. Not you or me or Apple or Samsung or anyone else outside of Google, but rather, Larry Page. Andy wants to make sure that Larry continues to think of Android in a positive light. Larry might very well be counting those heavy costs and elusive benefits, and considering that perhaps it’s getting to be time for Google to cut Android loose in some sense. To call it a mature product, form a consortium to take it over, and let it fly from the nest. And hopefully take some of its baggage with it. Larry has been on a bit of a cost-cutting binge lately. Perhaps he’s been warming up his axe swings in anticipation of the biggest cut of all.

      BTW, Charlie, excellent post, and food for much thought!!!

    • Simple question, if Google makes more money off of iOS (though search) than Android, what’s the point? We know that Mobile Safari (and this iOS) makes up a HUGE majority of mobile web browsers, even though more Android devices are sold, so I would guess that there are a large number of Android devices that are never connected to the Internet. What value to Google is a device that isn’t connected to the Internet?

  16. Great read. I also read something recently regarding the same subject. It was called Android and the F word http://www.thetechblock.com/articles/2012/android-and-the-f-word/

  17. You say ‘fragmentation is not the end of Android’ and (paraphrasing) ‘Android’s value is significantly diminished and continues to do so’. The software is still around, but Android as an entity has already become quite meaningless, no? So isn’t that in fact the end?

    • Yes and no, Michel. From an end user, buying a smartphone, perspective I believe Android as a brand will become close to irrelevant. From a technology perspective I believe Android will continue to be relevant in a way very similar to Linux (in fact, it might be argued that Android & Linux will become one, at least for client devices).

  18. Anonymous

    Fragmentation for developers sometimes means holding on neat features. For example, users keep asking for our app to be installed on the SD card instead of the phone internal memory.

    The android sdk allows for this, but only after android 2.2. If you add that feature then you have to make our app incompatible with everything 2.1 and below, which is about 25% of the userbase.
    fragmentation is real and it slows down progress in many ways if you want to deliver a similar experience to as many users as possible.

  19. Alexandra

    Please add a bear image to your collection on this post. Please and thank you. Alexandra

  20. Eduardomontez

    Android is fragmented, but that doesn’t seem to be hurting its success in the market place. Indeed, it is helping for various reasons.  It hurts Google only for Android devices that don’t have Google services, like the Fire. But it seems that most android devices have Google services, so I don’t see why Google would be that upset with the fragmentation.

  21. Anonymous

    Great article overall. I disagree with one point… “Apple will have to move to monetizing services”. I think that is entirely wrong for the foreseeable future.
    There is enormous headroom to sell more iPhones per year. Still a tiny proportion of overall sales of phones and while competing against non-consumption, everybody wins, as market becomes saturated the phone with the best ecosystem and customer satisfaction rates will win more share over time… currently and clearly Apple.
    Apple has never made money off the services – they have always been the at-cost razor blades to sell expensive handles. Apple does not make $150 from the carrier – it makes almost the full $650+, very quickly (since there is rarely any serious inventory of iPhones). This is how it works (and why carriers hate it since about $450 of that is subsidy on post-paid plans) and that is what Apple will defend and nurture. Tunes, Apps, OS and services will continue to be provided on a break-even basis for Apple (devs and content owners obviously get paid). HW is and always will be king for Apple. See Macs too.

    • Good discussion cap’n. I have a feeling our disagreement on this point is simply about timeframe. 

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the response. IMHO, that is a pretty long timeframe. If Apple has proven anything for this last decade, it is that it has a pipeline of world-changing products that have proven vastly more profitable than its services could ever be. This year, the iPhone alone will net more revenue than all of Microsoft and close to the profit level. An MS sized business in 5 years. Not too shabby. This is showing no signs of slowing (yet).

        When that dries up and when there is no more growth and/or profit to hoover out of its segments, then we might see a push on services revenue. You have to admit, it has gone the other way so far – iCloud becoming more for free than MobileMe was for $100 p.a. Macs make >33% of all PC industry profit off 5% global share… there is a lot of headroom for the next decade.

  22. Ronin48

    Wow.  I guess this is a fairly thorough look at fragmentation from several perspectives but breaking it down this way and to this degree is pointless.

    If any serious degree of fragmentation exists, it matters.  And Android, as you show, has TONS of it at multiple points in the platform.

    Even if fragmentation only affects developers directly, that matters because fewer apps means fewer end users.

    Even if there’s only UI fragmentation, that means fewer happy end-users, which leads to fewer subs, which leads to a smaller user base, which leads to a less attractive market for developers, which means fewer apps, which means a less attractive platform for end-users and so on and so on.

    I could go on but you can easily see that fragmentation at ANY point in the platform stinks up the whole platform.

    And boy is Android stinking!

  23. Greg

    It’s vs its… Please read up on this. Good article otherwise.

  24. Brian Ashe

    Great piece. Could use a bit of proofreading but otherwise really good. I think you’ve got a pretty good take on the situation. I know you’re a fan of Windows but I don’t think it’ll ever gain mass appeal. Here’s how I see it shaking out: 1) iPhone was the first of its kind and took a big, iPod-ish lead in its area. 2) Android was the first to follow and they immediately filled in all the gaps left by Apple: more carriers, variety of hardware, etc. 3) That’s it. Windows might be “better” than Android in various small ways, but not in many substantial or meaningful ways. Just like with CD (miles better than cassettes and albums; SACD and DVDA–not so much) and DVD (miles better than VHS; Blu-ray or HD-DVD–not so much) there’s room for a #1 and a #2 but not much room for 3…N. Like Windows on the desktop, Android is “good enough” and there’s already a lot of it out there.

  25. With regard to 
    Holding Back Access to Google Services. “- this is exactly what Google does today using the Compatibility Test Suite – 
    http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/source.android.com/en/us/compatibility/android-cts-manual-r4.pdf If you don’t properly integrate Google Services or replace them with other services, you can’t pass and don’t get to access the Android Market on your device. 

  26. Anonymous

    Long and tiring. In the end, I still believe Eric Schmidt because the apps on the market just work for me. Also, people tend to forget that those Android devices that have breached the provisions of Compatibility Definition Document and therefore do not come with Android Market pre-installed are actually not Android but only Android-like.

  27. Anonymous

    Google has not “lost control” of Android. As long as device manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, and Sony depend on the Android market, and the other services that Google controls, Google still has a good deal of leverage it can exert.

    They can’t exert too much pressure on manufacturers because they are getting handcuffed by the carriers. They could (and I think they will), start to pressure carriers, because the carriers don’t trust Microsoft, they have gotten burned by Microsoft many times in the past. The can’t depend on RIMM. They have shown that they are incapable of competing with the speed the market moves. They are still operating on the 3-5 year device cycle that was in place while BlackBerries were ascending in the market.

    Last but not least, no carrier wants to be in a situation, where they all of their eggs in the Apple basket. They know that if they ever found themselves in that position, they might as well be owned by Apple, because Apple will wield more power over their network than they would.

    Have things gotten a little out of hand in Android? Yes.

    But don’t be fooled, Google still has quite a bit of leverage it can use to rein things in a bit. They will have to delicately balance the interests of manufacturers, carriers and users.

    It’s not impossible and they’ve already started. It will take some time though.

  28. Anonymous

    Google has not “lost control” of Android. As long as device manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, and Sony depend on the Android market, and the other services that Google controls, Google still has a good deal of leverage it can exert.

    They can’t exert too much pressure on manufacturers because they are getting handcuffed by the carriers. Thing is, carriers are not as ambivalent about the success of Android as you seem to think. They don’t trust Microsoft, they have gotten burned by them in the past, through the previous iterations of “Windows in phone form”. They can’t depend on RIMM, it has shown itself to be incapable of adjusting to changing market dynamics. They’re still operating on 2-3 year device cycles, while Apple is cranking out new iPhones once a year, and Android manufacturers are pumping out new devices every quarter. The Android cycle will slow going forward, but there is no indication that RIMM will ever be able to catch up.

    Last but not least, no carrier wants to be in a situation, where the only option available to them , to get their users on high ARPU data plans, are Apple devices. More Apple devices means smaller and smaller margins on service.

    Have things gotten a little out of hand in Android? Yes.

    But don’t be fooled, Google still has quite a bit of leverage it can use to rein things in a bit. They will have to delicately balance the interests of manufacturers, carriers and users. It’s not impossible and they’ve already started. It will take some time though.

    It is in the best interests of Google, the device manufacturers, and the carriers for Android to be successful. It only benefits Apple and Microsoft for Android to fail.

  29. The real problem is all these carriers refusing to uprade AOSP so they can sell new barely better phones.  None of this is Google’s fault.  The corporations are greedy and suck, as usual.

  30. Søren Smed Østergaard

    To me, the fragmentation will only seem to become a problem for the Android platform when it stops growing (as you can’t grow yourself out of the problem). When that happens, Android will become less relevant and the specific company implementation will start to matter more (for developers). Along the timeline, users will still remain frustrated

  31. Sesh, someone give Charlie a weed whacker. iPhone ushered in a market shift typically from 5 year or longer product replacements to 2 year or shorter device market, often sponsored by carrier contracts and supported by tax deductions. People are driven to gain a competitive edge. Carrying a latest mobile device to save time at work, or spend time outside work is the important. The Android fragmentation makes little difference when Google grips ethnography and how to innovate on what people, carriers and manufactures really care about.

  32. Anonymous

    Awesome article. 

    Thank you.

  33. Anonymous

    To be honest, modern Microsoft is probably a bit too “nice” to do well in the market place right now. Bill Gates was the ultimate “cock blocker”. He would disrupt a market by offering substandard product to get their foot in the door. Or he would embrace and extend a standard (java) just to slow down the opposition. MS nowadays is doing none of that. WP7 was at least a year too late. They should have a WP7 tablet out right now, not end of 2012. There probably a bit too perfectionist right now for their own good.

    They take too long to get something done and they have too many conflicting ideas internally. I dont like old MS, and I think the new MS products are so much better… but the reality is the “bad boys” get the hottest girls!

  34. Anonymous

    given that there is tension between interests of carriers and OS creator.  Carriers want to differentiate, OS create wants uniformity. 

    How is windows phone addressing this challenge?  I suggest that the user demand for the software platform ecosystem of which windows phone is a part, will persuade carriers and handset makers that carrying this platform will result in sales that are consistently growing and sustainable.  this is because the windows/office franchise is dominant productivity software.  once windows phones acquire the features needed for routine enterprise use (vpn encryption etc), they can be sold en mass to companies as blackberries have been.  The differrence is that once you own a windows phone, you dont need a personal iphone as well, or android.  thus, the sustainable competitive advantage afforded by windows/office is extended to windows phone.  The carriers and handset makers will tolerate the uniformity of the windows phone OS because of the consistency of sales.  in time, they can develop apps written for the platform, using the metro/net. framework, which then becomes the new standard UI. 

    unlike the case with google leadership, who seem to think that all parties concerned should use the “open source” android in the way that best benefits google, because google has a sort of predetermined claim to preeminence.  microsoft leadership, as mature and reality based decisionmakers, will give all concerned parties a clear way of consistently increasing sales.

  35. given that there is tension between interests of carriers and OS creator.  Carriers want to differentiate, OS create wants uniformity.
     
    How is windows phone addressing this challenge?  I suggest that the user demand for the software platform ecosystem of which windows phone is a part, will persuade carriers and handset makers that carrying this platform will result in sales that are consistently growing and sustainable.  this is because the windows/office franchise is dominant productivity software.  once windows phones acquire the features needed for routine enterprise use (vpn encryption etc), they can be sold en mass to companies as blackberries have been.  The difference is that once you own a windows phone, you dont need a personal iphone as well, or android.  thus, the sustainable competitive advantage afforded by windows/office is extended to windows phone. 
     
    The carriers and handset makers will tolerate the uniformity of the windows phone OS because of the consistency of sales.  in time, they can develop apps written for the platform, using the metro/net. framework, which then becomes the new standard UI. 
     
    unlike the case with google leadership, who seem to think that all parties concerned should use the “open source” android in the way that best benefits google, because google has a sort of predetermined claim to preeminence.  microsoft leadership, as mature and reality based decisionmakers, will give all concerned parties a clear way of consistently increasing sales.  In order to do this, you need to establish a sustainable competitive advantage.

  36. Westechm

    For quite some time I have wondered whether Google is actually making money from the Android venture.  Their costs for supporting it are certainly not insignificant, and the legal costs are potentially very high (note the Oracle suit, for example).  Does the income from the added search business (if it is really added) exceed these costs?

  37. Nice article, but please learn the difference between “reign” and “rein”. ;)

  38. Dominik Smogór

     If Samsung was really interested in forking Android they wouldn’t much around with Tizen. What their Android “fork” may be is Tizen + Dalvik.

  39. given that there is tension between interests of carriers
    and OS creator.  Carriers want to
    differentiate, OS create wants uniformity.

     

    How is windows phone addressing this challenge?  I suggest that the user demand for the
    software platform ecosystem of which windows phone is a part, will persuade
    carriers and handset makers that carrying this platform will result in sales
    that are consistently growing and sustainable. 
    this is because the windows/office franchise is dominant productivity
    software.  once windows phones acquire
    the features needed for routine enterprise use (vpn encryption etc), they can
    be sold en mass to companies as blackberries have been.  The difference is that once you own a windows
    phone, you dont need a personal iphone as well, or android.  thus, the sustainable competitive advantage
    afforded by windows/office is extended to windows phone. 

     

    The carriers and handset makers will tolerate the uniformity
    of the windows phone OS because of the consistency of sales.  in time, they can develop apps written for
    the platform, using the metro/net. framework, which then becomes the new standard
    UI. 

     

    unlike the case with google leadership, who seem to think
    that all parties concerned should use the “open source” android in
    the way that best benefits google, because google has a sort of predetermined
    claim to preeminence.  microsoft
    leadership, as mature and reality based decisionmakers, will give all concerned
    parties a clear way of consistently increasing sales.  In order to do this, you need to establish a
    sustainable competitive advantage.

  40. given that there is tension between interests of carriers
    and OS creator.  Carriers want to
    differentiate, OS create wants uniformity.

     

    How is windows phone addressing this challenge?  I suggest that the user demand for the
    software platform ecosystem of which windows phone is a part, will persuade
    carriers and handset makers that carrying this platform will result in sales
    that are consistently growing and sustainable. 
    this is because the windows/office franchise is dominant productivity
    software.  once windows phones acquire
    the features needed for routine enterprise use (vpn encryption etc), they can
    be sold en mass to companies as blackberries have been.  The difference is that once you own a windows
    phone, you dont need a personal iphone as well, or android.  thus, the sustainable competitive advantage
    afforded by windows/office is extended to windows phone. 

     

    The carriers and handset makers will tolerate the uniformity
    of the windows phone OS because of the consistency of sales.  in time, they can develop apps written for
    the platform, using the metro/net. framework, which then becomes the new standard
    UI. 

     

    unlike the case with google leadership, who seem to think
    that all parties concerned should use the “open source” android in
    the way that best benefits google, because google has a sort of predetermined
    claim to preeminence.  microsoft
    leadership, as mature and reality based decisionmakers, will give all concerned
    parties a clear way of consistently increasing sales.  In order to do this, you need to establish a
    sustainable competitive advantage.

  41. Alex Cohn

    Google could force all devices being upgradable via cyanogen.

    Actually, search is only a small part of the mobile game for Google. They have the Market, the location-oriented services, the in-app ads. And for the latter, they have a lot of knowledge about the phone owner.

  42. loulou

    Sister will proofread for free.

  43. i don’t know if what i’m about to say makes sense but forking of android seems

    like evolution in biology , you see eventually there will be 2 or more android custom builds
    that are not compatible with each other at all but that won’t necessarily mean that they are not good . of course for  the time being , the incompatible versions from a developer’s perspective will create trouble but as a relatively young OS android needs time to become stable enough so  that it won’t require frequent updates 
     

  44. fishman

    Charlie obviously knows far more about the mobile phone market than I do, so I can’t really question most of what’s been laid out here with any authority.

    However, as a general comment on the “Google has lost control over Android” theme that prevails in this article, I wonder if the following is closer to the mark.

    – Google controls the core Android OS releases, what it doesn’t control is how they are implemented by manufactures
    – As Android evolves around hardware advancements, manufactures will be literally dragged onto the latest release. An example is dual core support being added to gingerbread; this pretty much forces all new devices coming out onto this release or greater. This is a tend that will continue ad-infinitum 
    – Also as android software evolves, again manufactures are forced onto the latest OS to keep up with competition; an example of this in the near future will be voice control, which as google improves to compete with Siri will in turn force manufactures onto the latest release to be able to compete effectively
    – These “enforced” upgrades will in effect limit future fragmentation; while google is trying to encourage upgrades with a carrot/stick approach, the market will move this way anyway due to competition

    Just some thoughts which may or may not be valid, and to what degree they might limit fragmentation I have no idea.

    I also disagree that the Nexus increases fragmentation – its only one device amongst many and to this end its effect is negligible. Far more arguable is that by exposing consumers to (the rapidly improving) vanilla Android experience, it will encourage consumers to demand something closer to this experience from their future purchases.

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