Google Android fragmentation and development cycle

by James TromansJune 2, 2010
Google Android development

Google Android development

According to Google’s open source and compatibility program manager for Android, Dan Morrill , the ‘fragmentation’ that people talk about with Android is just a ‘bogeyman, a red herring’. In a rather long blog post, one of the key points that Dan Morrill makes is that ‘fragmentation’ has different meanings. Unfortunately I found this rather unconvincing because, no matter what the semantics, there are various forms of ‘old’ Google Android out there which are unable to run many of the latest applications.

Because it means everything, it actually means nothing, so the term is useless. Stories on “fragmentation” are dramatic and they drive traffic to pundits’ blogs, but they have little to do with reality. “Fragmentation” is a bogeyman, a red herring, a story you tell to frighten junior developers. Yawn.

Nonetheless, the article does make for a good read and is both informative and interesting. What is more interesting, however, is that Google’s VP of Engineering for Android, Andy Rubin, has announced that the Android development cycle will settle into a one year iteration. The reason for the hectic development pace thus far was to bring Android up to market spec quickly. A lot of manufacturers and developers have disliked the rate in which Android has changed because there have been a host of unavoidable issues with compatibility between different Android versions and therefore various Android devices.

So we launched it, and from our internal 0.8, we got to 1.0 pretty quickly, and we went through this iteration cycle. You’ve noticed, probably, that that’s slowed down a little bit. Our product cycle is now, basically twice a year, and it will probably end up being once a year when things start settling down, because a platform that’s moving — it’s hard for developers to keep up. I want developers to basically leverage the innovation. I don’t want developers to have to predict the innovation.

So for me the directions of the messages from these two guys are almost polar. One is saying fragmentation doesn’t exist and isn’t something to worry about, while the other is saying that they are slowing Android development down to allow developers to catch up and ultimately remove some of this ‘fragmentation’.