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Top message:  Why bother now......this is why apple rules by AJ   Jul 12, 2012, 7:23 PM

Replying to:  Re: Why bother now......this is why apple rules by Dakidobf   Jul 13, 2012, 8:42 AM

Re: Why bother now......this is why apple rules

by Zpike    Jul 13, 2012, 5:03 PM

Most complaints about Android fragmentation are crap. And here's why. The argument goes something like, there are too many devices running different versions and no one can keep up with them. This sucks and we need to find a way to get everyone on the same version. Inevitably the proposed solution is something like yours. Slow down the rate of development so everyone can have the same experience at the same time.

So, suppose I've just developed the Latest Greatest Operating System, LGOS. I release my first stable build, LGOS v1.12. Everyone loves it and every major manufacturer starts selling it on their handsets. Its an instant success. But critics start talking about features it doesn't have and things it does poorly. I care about my OS and about my customers, so I listen to them and decide to implement some of the things they are asking for. Right off the bat, I can see that some features constitute a major change and will need to be implemented in v2 of LGOS. But there are some others that I can implement right now that will really improve v1 of the software. So, after some hard work v1.63 of LGOS is ready to go. I now have to decide whether to release this stable version with the new features, or to make my customers wait for v2.

The trade off is that v2 will have greater system requirements and many existing handsets will not be able to run it. Also, v2 is many months away from completion although it will be an entirely better experience. But I have v1.63 sitting there and it is a stable build. Realizing that many of my customers will not be able to upgrade to v2 without buying new handsets, I do what I believe is the best thing for my customers and release v1.63 to the vendors.

Some of the vendors are really listening to the customers and they push the update out right away. Others, however, believe the update causes a performance hit on lower end models they sell, or that some feature they have implemented on their handset may no longer work as desired. So, seeking to protect the image of their brands, they opt not to push the update and instead wait to release v2 on new handsets.

I know that I need to be competitive because other OS's already have some features I have planned for v2. Also, manufacturers that opted not to push v1.61 out to their existing products are clamoring for a new version to put on their handsets. So I hire some more developers and we hammer out v2 as quickly as possible. 6 months later, LGOS v2.12 begins shipping on a second generation of LGOS devices.

At this point there are three distinct versions of LGOS, and once consumers have had a few months to provide feedback on their handsets, I will likely be able to push out another update to v2. This would leave me with 4 versions of LGOS in less than 2 years. That's arguably quite a bit of fragmentation.

But what I've done is provide as many customers as many features as I can in as short of a period of time as possible, and in such a way that there are a diversity of handsets to choose from. Inevitably there will be users on v1.12 wishing they had the features in v2.12. But if I had taken longer to develop the OS and get those features into handset manufacturers hands, those same users would have waited longer to get those same features. Sure there would be less fragmentation, but who would that benefit? Also, the fact that there is a better version than the one you bought doesn't stop you from enjoying the features you paid for in the version you have.

Sometimes when technology changes rapidly it can be frustrating. I know I've over simplified this and there are many issues I didn't cover. Like trying to develop apps for different versions of the same OS. Inevitably some users will be frustrated that an app they want isn't available on their version. But if there is really enough demand for the app on that version someone will develop it. I fail to see how bringing new technology to market as quickly as possible is a bad thing. Even if that does mean fragmentation.

And besides to that degree the cellphone industry as a whole was extremely fragmented (and to a large degree still is) until smartphones started bringing some consistency to the experience. I'll take several fragmented versions of Android (across every major handset) as opposed to having 12 different manufacturers, each with 2 or 3 different proprietary OS's that seem to change with every handset and no consistent experience across any of them. Perhaps you have forgotten what the handset market was like in the days of the RAZR, but I haven't. You may think Android is fragmented, but it is still a relatively new OS and the mobile market is really just starting to take off. It may take some time, but things will stabilize eventually.

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