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Android Operating Systems Technology

Eric Schmidt Doesn't Think Android Is Fragmented 431

Posted by samzenpus
from the trial-seperation dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Eric Schmidt took issue with the idea that the Android mobile operating system is fragmented, arguing that it's a differentiation between devices rather than a fragmentation. The difference, as he explains it, is that differentiation means manufacturers have a choice, they're going to compete on their view of innovation, and try to convince consumers that their innovation is better than somebody elses whereas fragmentation is quite the opposite. Not surprisingly, some company analysts beg to differ, pointing out the ever increasing incompatibilities between OS and apps across different Android devices and other problems with Android."
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Eric Schmidt Doesn't Think Android Is Fragmented

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  • by bonch (38532) * on Thursday January 12, 2012 @02:49PM (#38676534)

    Manufacturers competing on their "view of innovation"--which apparently means junkware like TouchWiz--is precisely what is fragmenting the platform. Schmidt seems to believe that by reframing it with a feel-good word like innovation, he can successfully claim that it's somehow the opposite of fragmentation. The differentiation and and in-fighting between manufacturers and devices is the fragmentation. Nothing he stated refutes the claim that the platform is fragmented; he's just describing the fragmentation in a different way.

    NPD now says that iOS has officially closed the gap with Android in U.S. marketshare [gigaom.com] since the release of the iPhone 4S, so these issues are having a real effect on the platform. According to NPD's report, 150 Android handsets can't beat three old iPhone models. What's happening here is that Android phones catered to techies and budget buyers, but with the iPhone 3GS now free on contract, Apple now has budget buyers covered--and there are way more of them than there are techies.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:05PM (#38676746)

      There is no fragmentation problem with Android. It's always been something that Apple fanbois have used to attack Android for being less homogenous. The fact though is that Google provides the tools for developers to handle the variations in screen size and such and in practice developers don't seem to be having too much trouble with the fragmentation issue.

      True early on some features wouldn't be supported on older versions of Android, but the same is true with iOS, Apple adds new features and doesn't necessarily port them to old iPhones.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:22PM (#38676934)

        The fact though is that Google provides the tools for developers to handle the variations in screen size and such and in practice developers don't seem to be having too much trouble with the fragmentation issue.

        I'm just finishing up my first Android app. It's a simple app, yet several times I've already needed to use reflection to dig around in undocumented APIs or roll my own version of a class included in the framework because of differences between the API versions. I have also found that it is difficult to add functionality to framework classes because Google makes many of the methods either private or final.

        • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:54PM (#38677404)

          I'm just finishing up my first Android app. It's a simple app, yet several times I've already needed to use reflection to dig around in undocumented APIs or roll my own version of a class included in the framework because of differences between the API versions. I have also found that it is difficult to add functionality to framework classes because Google makes many of the methods either private or final.

          Good luck with that app. Yes, unfortunately many Java developers think that good encapsulation means making a lot of stuff private or final. Actually what it often means is that the code is not fit for re-use, you end up re-writing code to do the same stuff that in a more open way and use that. IMHO if you are a Java developer that automatically defaults to private and final methods, forces the use of singletons or factories instead of trying to make POJO JavaBeans which can then be used as singletons (or as ordinary objects, as the need arises) then you ought to consider yourself an orthodox developer that is probably not like by anyone forced to re-use your code.

          Part of the problem is the attempt of Java library writers to try and protect the user from themselves. I used to do this but after using so many other libraries over the years I now think this is misguided. Now I try and make POJOs and POJO services whereever I can and make sure I properly Javadoc what needs to happen and also check the preconditions and arguments of all method calls. IMHO I find that in later stages of a project I have access to all sorts of information I need, rather than having to continually go back and publish formerly private methods due to inflexible and closed interfaces. A little bit of encapsulation is good (avoid non-final public members for sure) but that does not mean encapsulating yourself into a straightjacket is good either

          Sorry for getting a bit off-topic there, but I hear your pain with the currently 'orthodox' way that Google close their framework off. If there are any Java devs reading out there - keep it POJO if you can and unless you have an extremely good reason for using a private method you should make it public (which also helps unit testing too). And ffs write *meaningful* Javadoc about what can and can't cause usage of the class to fail (eg. preconditions, what argument values are invalid etc).

          • unless you have an extremely good reason for using a private method you should make it public (which also helps unit testing too). And ffs write *meaningful* Javadoc about what can and can't cause usage of the class to fail (eg. preconditions, what argument values are invalid etc).

            The second part of this is precisely the first part cannot always be done. If you make a method public, it becomes a part of your contract - you have to document it, do full argument validation (because who knows what will be passed to it by third party code?), and you'll have to keep it around in future versions of your API for backwards compatibility.

            Making things public is not free. In fact, it can be very expensive, depending on your back-compat requirements. Consequently, if you're making a public plat

            • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:53PM (#38680558)

              If you are not documenting and validating the input methods of your methods (regardless of whether they are public or private) then you are making a colossal mistake. How do you know when the maintainer who comes after you is going to refactor the class; answer: you don't. If you are not validating your inputs and thinking out the overall object state when you first write the method just because you're too lazy to then no wonder people like myself are forced to re-invent the code people like you write. I *hate* re-implementing code that other people have done, but it turns out that people that don't design for re-use by others (that is, hide methods that are required to extend functionality while maintaining invariant conditions) are the majority and mistake the contrived examples given in textbooks (showing you how to hide *critical* methods) as examples take this as what should be done for *all* classes.

              You are welcome to think I'm full of it. Like I said, I used to think as you do, but with a lot more experience of using other's code I realized how unfriendly this is for third-party devs trying to use your code (who will need to re-use it in ways you never thought of - thanks to their particular requirements). For example, just try extending JavaMail to allow to arbitrarily muck around with MIME mail parts and nest them as you see fit. Turns out the methods you need to do that are all implemented but hidden away, yet looking at the source (thank goodness I had access to it - not always the case) there was no good reason for hiding it away that I could see, apart from it being 'orthodoxy' (which means the author never thought about it too hard, as they probably never had to try using his own code while trying not to access the source, as a user would try to do). In the end I had to wastefully re-write a chunk of Javamail for the clients use. This kind of crap is why 'Not Invented Here' is so prevalent - because orthodox Java development as promoted by the textbooks and circuit speakers goes too far so as to make encapsulation a straightjacket. Some encapsulation is good, but too much is worse than too little, if you know what you are doing (as most professional Java devs do these days - which is why it is so frustrating). Basically I see the excessive hiding of information as an unhelpful 'denial of service' by the author - maybe because they are too damned lazy to document the method, validate its inputs, or test it in isolation (of course getter/setters [accessors/mutators] don't need this level of work), and it sucks when I have to re-implement what they did just because they unnecessarily closed off a few very helpful methods. I'd bet you money that if you've been developing for a while you've had this yourself. One last thing, when developing a class I believe you should always be thinking of how the class could be used in a stand-alone fashion (as any Java Bean can be) without the rest of the machinery of your particular application. The corollary is that the smaller the dependencies (example, choose JRE standard classes like java.util.logging over third party libraries) the easier it is for other people to use. Most Java developers don't try to minimize their library dependencies and think whether each library contributes enough to justify the extra weight, but they should. This is why some small Java programs come with hundreds of extra JAR libraries, some of which have very tenuous utility for the application (and sometimes a single class is used from a library, which brings in a raft of other libraries, when a simple implementation of the simple class would have saved the dependency mire).

              I understand what you are saying. I just happen to disagree that methods should be hidden by default. With proper documentation and unit test examples for client developers to follow (you do unit test, don't you?) then trying to 'protect the developer from themselves by hiding functionality' becomes unnecessary - which gives the client more freedom to use more of your classes, and therefore the client

        • by Galestar (1473827) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:58PM (#38677464)
          you're doing it wrong
      • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:34PM (#38677080)

        Apple adds new features and doesn't necessarily port them to old iPhones.

        Apple is pretty good about updating their product line to the current OS. True, you're not going to update your original iPhone to iOS5. But you're not going to buy a brand new last gen iPhone 4 or even iPhone 3GS with iOS 3. Same with Windows Phones, they all currently run the latest release of WP7, even if you buy a last gen samsung focus from. However, in the Android world you can buy a brand new Android phone with an OS 2 versions out of date, and that phone will never be upgraded. THAT is the problem. We're not talking about 4 year old phones not getting the latest release. We're talking about brand new phones that are out of date, out of the box. This isn't a fairy tale.

    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:08PM (#38676774)

      Oh wow shocking, Apple gained sales market share right after releasing a brand new super-hyped phone and lowering their old prices! Android is doomed! DOOOOMED, I tell you!

      Anyways, fragmentation is good for the market. Allows for true competition and drives features. The newest Android phones are far and away more featureful than any iPhone, plus you can choose from any carrier and any range of features you want. I would have liked Google to encourage manufacturers to release more updates to their phones so people didn't get stuck on 2.1 or whatnot, but the fact that most Android programs work on most Android devices is nothing short of amazing when you think about the vast array of different hardware they can contain.

      • Anyways, fragmentation is good for the market.

        Then why are all the fandroids screaming that the market is fragmented?

    • by yuhong (1378501)

      I still remember this:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA1I6MUOKkU [youtube.com]

    • by Galestar (1473827) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:54PM (#38677398)
      Android actually reduces fragmentation. Could you imagine what would happen without Android? Every phone manufacturer would have its own completely different OS. If Apple MS and RIM threw in the towel today and all switched to Android there would be significantly less fragmentation in the marketplace as a whole.

      The argument that Schmidt is making - manufacturers need to be able to differentiate their products. Android allows them to do this without sacrificing interoperability on the scale that Apple/RIM/MS sacrifice it.

      You - bonch/Overly-Critical-Guy - live in a closed bubble where all you can see is "Apple good, Android bad". You have blinders on your eyes. Please either take them off or stop posting.
      • Android actually reduces fragmentation. Could you imagine what would happen without Android? Every phone manufacturer would have its own completely different OS.

        This is backwards in two ways:

        1) Android is acting as an ENABLER. That is the term that is used when someone acts in a capacity to encourage another to engage in a self-destructive behavior - as in letting cell phone companies keen to "leverage" the position as the carrier you are stuck with to force-feed you apps you do not want and brand the hell

        • by Galestar (1473827)
          Your argument is like saying Microsoft should mandate that Dell can't install crapware on its computers. One of the reasons Microsoft won the OS war was because is was willing to work with every manufacturer to make sure its OS ran on their hardware, similar to why Android is winning and will eventually dominate the mobile OS war. Placing arbitrary requirements on manufacturers with no legitimate technical reason can hurt the relationship between them, and as such is generally not done.

          Along the same li
    • by dudpixel (1429789)

      I dunno, once upon a time the iPhone WAS the market (I really dont see blackberry as a competitor to the iphone), so Android has convinced at least 50% of people who may otherwise have bought an iphone (in the absence of any other choice) to buy an android phone.
      Some of those will switch back to iphone, or will choose iphone next because they disliked some of it...

      but the fact is that android hasn't failed, and is still competing quite well in the market despite any fragmentation or whatever people want to

  • by SharkLaser (2495316) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @02:50PM (#38676544) Journal

    The difference, as he explains it, is that differentiation means manufacturers have a choice, they're going to compete on their view of innovation, and try to convince consumers that their innovation is better than somebody elses whereas fragmentation is quite the opposite.

    How is that different, and how is fragmentation quite the opposite? It's not. Fragmentation on Android is real problem. Of course Eric Schmidt is going to say it's not a problem, or that it doesn't even exist. Companies always deny problems. It's not a bug, it's a feature!

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @02:55PM (#38676614) Homepage

      What's a problem exactly? How is that different than any other platform that has diverse hardware and different OS release levels applied to it?

      It makes for some sensational rhetoric but seems to be less meaningful in practice.

      I can't play the latest and greatest CPU/GPU crushing game on an ION but no one seems to think that's such a great tragedy.

      • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:09PM (#38676792)
        It might not be different, but it is a bad thing and consumers do suffer. Consumers go into a cellphone store and they buy an android phone, thinking they're buying into a certain level of quality or experience. But Android runs on some pretty craptacular phones and tablets these days. It's a complete crap shoot as to what kind of specifications and capabilities any given android phone has. Contrast this with the iPhone. As a consumer you know exactly what you're getting even if it's a last gen phone. Contrast this with Windows Phone. Even if you buy the lowest end windows phone or a last gen phone, it's going to have the same exact capabilities as the top of the line.
    • by Troed (102527) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:06PM (#38676754) Homepage Journal

      Well, the wordplay is correct. You could also say that the mobile market is fragmented between iOS and Android, yet we call that differentiation and innovation.

      After all - we could create a government mandate that all computers have to be x86 based - that would've stopped a lot of fragmentation. Would it have created a better world?

    • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:08PM (#38676780)

      Except that Google provides developers with tools for managing that and I'm sure that there's a list of safe features to use as well. The typical people making a big deal out of fragmentation are Apple Fanbois that can't imagine how an OS could exist where all devices aren't identical.

      I haven't personally found that I wanted to use an App that wasn't available for my particular handset but was for other Android handsets. I doubt very much that I'm alone, at least when it comes to folks that waited until the market got really going good.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Agreed. And for a product line that has so few models, I am amazed at the level of incompatibility that exists on the iOS line of products.
      • by dreemernj (859414)

        Except that Google provides developers with tools for managing that and I'm sure that there's a list of safe features to use as well. The typical people making a big deal out of fragmentation are Apple Fanbois that can't imagine how an OS could exist where all devices aren't identical.

        I haven't personally found that I wanted to use an App that wasn't available for my particular handset but was for other Android handsets. I doubt very much that I'm alone, at least when it comes to folks that waited until the market got really going good.

        I have found apps that don't work on my Android. But that's because when it was new it was one of the cheapest Android phones out there I believe. It was never ever intended to be a powerhouse and it was never going to stand toe to toe against the expensive, top of the line phones.

        The fact that it was designed to be cheap is the only reason I have an Android phone now. And every time it manages to pull off 3D graphics or streaming high quality video my mind is blown. It's made by Huawei. It cost someth

  • by jkyrlach (1076609) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @02:51PM (#38676552)
    put's positive spin on a potentially negative product quality. Film at 11.
  • Shocked (Score:4, Funny)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @02:53PM (#38676576)

    Totally shocked that the CEO of the company that licenses Android insists that it's not fragmented. Could we also get China's opinion on internet censorship or Rush Limbaugh's thoughts on Obama?

  • This is the guy who said "If you have something you dont want anyone to know then you shouldn't be doing" and this is the guy who said not use G+ if you don't want to share real name. He is the chairman of the company, he will try to put positive spin on negatives of their product. The only thing I hope is he just shut up
  • by mveloso (325617) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @02:59PM (#38676664)

    In the footsteps of Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf comes Eric Schmidt:

    "No, what you are seeing is not fragmentation, it's differentiation!"
    "Google search plus your World is not favoring Google+ results - it's just reranking them more appropriately!"

    • by geekoid (135745)

      And both statements are correct

      Google search plus change the ranking based on the USERS CHOICE. You say, use my profile to make the result more relent to ME means removing things not likely to be relevant to you. And since its a clear choice there really isn't a problem with that feature as a feature. It may lead to an echo chambers effect, but that's a different discussion.

      It's like you are complaining that when you enter cookie -baking it change the page ranking to remove baking.

  • by danbob999 (2490674) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:04PM (#38676718)

    As I said in a previous discussion, Android reduces fragmentation.

    The main fragmentation that interest developers is the one between platforms, not within a platform. If Apple and RIM both switched to Android, it would be much easier to develop for mobile devices. They add a lot of fragmentation by continuing to push their proprietary platform. Google actually removes fragmentation by giving away for free an OS that anyone can use. There would be much more fragmentation in the mobile world if HTC, Motorola, Sony, Samsung and LG all pushed their own OS like Apple and RIM are doing.

    • by kthreadd (1558445)

      That's a good point.

      But it can still be argued that there exists some fragmentation and that most Android phones does not ship with Android Android but instead with a more or less heavily modified version of it.

      It's like if computers came with HP Windows, or Dell Windows, oh wait, they do!

      • by khipu (2511498)

        The standard OS functions and APIs are the same across all devices, and backwards compatible between versions.

        What is "modified" is software like the launcher and the contact app. That only rarely impacts developers.

    • Exactly. What is important for most of the users is that apps work on their device.

      No one says Windows is fragmented even when its user base is split between Windows 7 XP and Vista. Most applications are compatible, so there isn't much of a problem.

      Fragmentation is mostly just FUD that is pushed by Apple as far as the average user is concern. Power users complain about not having the latest version of Android, but I think that is a different issue.

    • by Galestar (1473827)
      Perfect answer. Mod parent up.
  • Which is an unusually thing to say about Eric.

  • by kmahan (80459) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:15PM (#38676862)

    How about calling the manufacturers LIARS. They committed to putting ICS on handsets and now are going back and saying "just kidding."

    In my case the Moto Droid 3. Bought it after hearing Moto commit to putting ICS on their new handsets. Now they won't even talk about ICS and the Droid 3. Luckily Cyanogen has stepped up.

  • by khipu (2511498) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:17PM (#38676894)

    Most apps work fine across all common Android versions; the only ones that don't are those that require functionality that just wasn't available on earlier devices. Most of the so-called "fragmentation" is things like manufacturer-specific apps and launchers. Those do exactly what Google says they do: they allow manufacturers to differentiate themselves from one another. That may not be a good thing (I prefer "pure" Android), but it isn't a problem.

    I think a lot of the complaints from developers about fragmentation is complaints from iOS developers, who are used to an unusually rigid level of constraints across devices and have developed bad coding practices (like hard-coding coordinates and layouts etc.) because of it.

    • That may not be a good thing (I prefer "pure" Android), but it isn't a problem.

      And the thing is, if you prefer "pure" Android (like you, and like me) Google produces an official reference phone in the Nexus line.

      I understand there's issues in the US, where apparently certain handsets aren't allowed on certain telco networks, but that's really a problem with your telcos than with Android - why they are allowed to discriminate based on handset instead of simply on features is beyond me.

  • Marketing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:23PM (#38676954)

    If you are afflicted with bad press, argue the semantics.

    Since it's technical stuff, nobody but the geeks are going to understand, and nobody listens to the geeks.

  • by Superken7 (893292) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:30PM (#38677032) Journal

    Most apps run well on every android version thanks to the design of API cross-compatibility (I have experienced this myself, being an early android developer).

    However, I don't think you can avoid the fact that the OS itself is fragmented when your OS takes 6 months to a full year to be available on the majority of android handsets.

    In addition, has Mr. Schmid had a look at this chart, put up by google themselves?
    http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/platform-versions.html [android.com]
    It reads OS fragmentation all over it! And this is PRECISELY what pisses many (geek) users off, that they can't get the latest and greatest or that new phones come to market being outdated!

    • by brainzach (2032950) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:36PM (#38677122)

      Windows machines are heavily fragmented between Windows 7 XP and Vista. It will just get worst when Windows 8 comes out.

      The problem isn't fragmentation. It is the lack of OS updates.

    • Exactly. As a developer, I've had very little problem with differences between devices. Sure there's a lot of variation in terms of screen resolutions and such, but the OS provides tools to deal with that. And the custom skins different vendors put on the UI really don't impact me much at all.

      But it's really irritating that I still can't require anything later than Android 2.2 without excluding a large part of the potential market (and even at that I'm losing about 10% that are on 2.1 or earlier). The v

  • I am okay with a little fragmentation if it means lots of choices in phones. Shopping for smartphones, for me, is like being in a big candy shop and trying really hard to choose. And, while I understand how appealing the iPhone is for so many, I really like having lots of choices (I chose and really love my HTC EVO). The iPhone is a great choice for many but many others like other choices. Too much "sameness" doesn't feel good to me though it feels great to others. I don't think either camp is right or

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