Google’s Fragmentation Problem

By March 25, 2012

google, android, fragmentation

Google may have to deal with growing unrest among Android developers who are becoming frustrated at the operating system’s fragmentation between hardware and software versions, according to a report by application framework developer Appcelerator and market intelligence firm IDC.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,100 developers for Appcelerator’s Titanium development platform, which is publicly available for iOS, OS X, Android and Windows. Among that population, researchers found that interest levels in coding for Android-based phones and tablets dropped 4.7 and 2.2 percent, to a respective 78.6 and 65.9 percent – rates that, while close to the margin of error, could also suggest erosion of interest in the operating system or the hardware being shipped with it.

“In the past year, developer interest in both Android platforms has begun to wane, not significantly from quarter to quarter, but noticeably enough to create the above trend line over the course of the year,” reads the report. “We believe this is mostly due to the fragmentation Android continues to experience and that Google seems unable to curtail, and the continued success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad.”

That’s good news for iOS, the authors note, with Apple devices continuing to sell well, and nearly nine out of 10 developers reporting they are “very interested” in the platform. But iOS isn’t immune to fragmentation problems – the new iPad’s high resolution “retina” display is prompting developers to issue graphically detailed updates for “universal” apps designed to run on the iPad and iPhone, many of which take up markedly more storage space than previous versions.

The survey also found growing interest in HTML5 as a tool for mobile developers, writing that “in 2012, HTML5 will move alongside native to take its place as a viable architecture for mobile applications.” As a bridge to that future, researchers predict that this year will see growth in hybrid apps that incorporate both HTML5 and native code.

Fragmentation isn’t the only hit Google’s mobile operating system has taken in recent days. According to a recent report (PDF) by Microsoft and Purdue University researchers, free Android apps that are saturated with advertisements can be a major battery drain, with the bulk of energy consumption in some cases going directly to ad content.

Image: Google