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Why fragmentation is a good sign for Android

Author Marko Gargenta on Android's growth and app compatibility.

Like every popular open source project, Android is dogged by the fragmentation threat. It’s the nature of openness: the lack of a formal hierarchy means many different flavors of an operating system or package could appear on many different devices.

At OSCON, I asked “Learning Android” author Marko Gargenta if fragmentation is a looming problem for Android. He doesn’t see it that way. Fragmentation, to him, is a side effect of accomplishing a goal:

Keep in mind, when Google started the Android project, their goal wasn’t a specific device. Their goal was many, many different devices, with many, many different companies adopting this platform. So, fragmentation is sort of built into the nature of the project. There are going to be different flavors of Android out there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. What’s been bad is for a consumer not knowing what application is going to be able to run on what device. And to address that, recently the Android project has released a definition of what compatibility means. [Emphasis added; question asked at the 3:24 mark in this video.]

The full interview is embedded below.

You can find additional OSCON interviews and keynotes in O’Reilly’s YouTube channel.

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  • Mike Leahy

    OS differentiation across the ecosystem is one thing and can be dealt with elegantly, but that is just one type of potential fragmentation. The real killer are the device specific bugs with OpenGL ES implementation, improper frame rate capping (seen on the Droid 2.1 update for 2D and EVO 4G for both 2D & 3D), and other major API failures like the brand new and tragically untested OpenGL 2.0 Java binding which has gone official with a major failure in the API that prevents VBO usage; essentially Google failed to even test it seemingly before pushing it out. The latter being horribly bad because it won’t be fixed until Gingerbread, but the huge problem is that one essentially can’t rely on the official API and a 3rd party Java GL ES binding is required. Furthermore there is no transparency on this issue in the documentation; you’re either in the know or you aren’t I’m afraid with new developers likely being completely confused. There is heinous fragmentation far beyond OS differentiation for low level real time app & game development. Fragmentation is being created by Google itself and OEMs (HTC & Motorola amongst others quite likely). Now.. I love Android and have been working with it intensely since the G1 shipped, but it’s I’m afraid the fragmentation is progress meme is just a ruse and a big pile of fud.

  • Alex Tolley

    Every generation it seems someone has to relearn the lesson, Marko Gargenta apparently hasn’t. Fragmentation incurs costs to the development community, limits universality of tools and libraries, etc. If fragmentation isn’t bad, provide examples where it has worked OK. In short, fragmentation is bad. Period.

  • Paul M. Watson

    Not sure consumers want a wild west experience in their pockets.