Android pioneer Andy Rubin has a message for developers carping about Android fragmentation: Calm down.
Posting on Google's Android Developers blog, Rubin said that Android owed much of its success to the fact that it could be modified by device manufacturers and thus isn't a "one size fits all" platform along the lines of Apple's iPhone operating system.
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"What amazes me is that the even though the quantity and breadth of Android products being built has grown tremendously, it's clear that quality and consistency continue to be top priorities," wrote Rubin, the former Android CEO who became Google's vice president of engineering when the company purchased Android in 2005. "Miraculously, we are seeing the platform take on new use cases, features and form factors as it's being introduced in new categories and regions while still remaining consistent and compatible for third-party applications."
Fragmentation of the Android platform has become an increasingly important issue for developers in recent months as Google has released multiple versions of the platform that get pushed out to different devices at different times. A recent survey conducted by the Baird wealth management firm found developers are having difficulty with this since they don't know if their apps will work optimally on different Android versions that are even further modified by manufacturers. For example, a developer who created an application designed to utilize Near-Field Communications (NFC) would not be able to run it on Android devices that have not been equipped with the Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread") platform released late last year.
Rubin's remarks on Android fragmentation came just a week after Business Week ran an article saying that Google had started to crack down on mobile carriers and device manufacturers that were modifying Android in ways that Google disliked. According to the article, which relied on interviews with "about a dozen executives working at key companies in the Android ecosystem," Google told companies they would now have to approve changes made to the platform directly with Google if they wanted to get "early access to Google's most up-to-date software."
Fragmentation issues aren't the only complaint about Google's recent Android actions, as some developers have also expressed frustration that Google has yet to release the source code for the new Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb") version of the platform that has been designed specifically for tablet computers. Rubin assured developers that Google planned to release the source code in the near future and emphasized that delays in opening up Honeycomb to the public were not due to a change in the company's attitude toward open-source platforms.
"The Android team is still hard at work to bring all the new Honeycomb features to phones," Rubin wrote. "As soon as this work is completed, we'll publish the code. This temporary delay does not represent a change in strategy. We remain firmly committed to providing Android as an open source platform across many device types."
Honeycomb got its first public showing in February when it debuted on Motorola's Xoom tablet. Initial reviews of the operating system expressed disappointment at the lack of tablet-specific Android applications available on the market.
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