Fragmentation was a word that not many people talked about before Android came along. Even while there were other mobile operating systems, namely Windows Mobile, that were dealing with the same issue around the launch of Android (and quite a bit beforehand), it didn’t become a mainstream issue with a household-like reoccurrence until Android started to take off. And now that Android is well off the ground, the fragmentation issue is a problem for many Android-powered handset owners out there who are stuck on an old version number, with no hope of getting an upgrade in sight. Google and the manufacturers know it’s a problem, and now reports suggest Google is taking a stand against it.
This actually isn’t new. It is for the smartphone situation, but Google’s already said they want to take a stand against fragmentation, and they intended to do that with the release of Android 3.0. Unfortunately, that means Google’s unhappy with the way that Android-powered tablets are being released, and wants to do something about the vast difference that’s out there. That’s all well and good for tablets, and Google’s absolutely right: there is a major issue between the plethora of Android-based tablets that are out there, and it did need to be fixed. The release of Android 3.0 should help that, but Google may be taking a far stricter route with the smartphone situation.
A new report suggests that Google is taking a look at how manufacturers alter Android on their individual devices, and are actually dictating whether or not these manufacturers will be able to release their handsets. Furthermore, while a non-fragmentation clause has always been part of the Android ecosystem, that has obviously not been something enforced. Executives at LG and Samsung, along with other companies, have said that Google is starting to dictate how much customization can go into each release of Android, and worse, these manufacturers need to have their plans approved before release.
Android is the open platform. It’s been touted as such since the release of the mobile operating system, and it’s one of the biggest features of the platform. Along with that, the level of customization that Android offers, for both designers and the end-user means that no two phones are the same, and when faced with competition like iOS and Windows Phone 7, this is a huge selling point. But it looks like this could all start to change, and sooner than later. If Google is indeed beginning to dip their hand into the release of Android on smartphones (and tablets), the playing field could start to see a major shift. And let's face it, while fragmentation is the real deal, it is getting better. But it may be too little, too late.
And what does that mean for Android? If we’re slowly removing the customization and open source features from the mobile operating system, where does that leave it? And if we’re talking about the future of Android, and the change that could be coming right around the corner, does that mean the adoption of the operating system will also change? Here’s the big question: will Android become more like iOS or Windows Phone 7? Let me know what you think in the comments below.