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by Jeff Foster Sprint 4G Rollout Updates Monday, March 12, 2012 - 11:00 AM MDT Linux’s biggest success story for the end-user is Android. Some analysts have predicted that Android could become the number one OS for smart phones in the world. Others have speculated that the iPhone and iOS will be Androids downfall. I don’t think so. I think the iPhone is a great phone and Apple has done well in establishing a market for it, and with it, a rabid consumer base. However, you will likely never see a new inexpensive iPhone. As all Apple lovers know, Apple prefers to be on the high-end of the consumer scale and they don’t sell anything cheap. So Apple will have a hard time exploiting the market penetration that Android allows with the variety of devices offered. The other OS’es? Some such as Windows are trying to make a mark, but the jury is still out. Blackberry? Tizen? webOS? Too little, too late or not fast enough off the mark. So what could go wrong? Android doesn’t have to worry about the competition; its manufacturing and carrier partners are the cause of concern. Let’s review, once a new version of Android is released, it can take three to six months before the consumer gets it. First, the chipmakers have to configure Android to run on its particular chip set. Then the device manufacturers (OEM’s): HTC, Motorola, Samsung etc., place their UI’s on top of Android. The most common UI’s are Motoblur, Sense and Touchwiz. Then the carriers get hold of it and add their own variety of applications which has become known to the tech savvy as “bloatware”. All these additions have to work, first by the chipmakers, then the OEM’s and finally the carriers before we get the latest Android OS in our hands. Say what you will about Apple, but they have their support structure down pat. Of course, it’s much easier for them to do updates with two to three hardware configurations, made by one manufacturer that also happens to be the software developer. The three different types of fragmentation that affects Android users. Operating/Component Systems Due to the number of different devices that the OEM’s produce and the different UI’s they develop to run on top of Android to give it the manufacturer’s particular branded look, the specifications of the device will have a lot to do with the amount of OS support the OEM will give it. Our question is; will the device be future-proofed for additional upgrades? My view? High and mid level devices should be supported for at least 2 years. The OEM’s allegedly work at keeping all its devices on the most recent version of Android and also determine which device will be upgraded and which won’t base on the capability of the components to handle an up rated version of the software. This is a cause of frustration when it seems that a biased and arbitrary decision is made when one device is upgraded by one OEM, but a similar device with similar specifications is denied by another. Hardware This can also be called device fragmentation. Some devices have camera buttons, gamepads, keyboards, and kickstands. OEM’s have to configure Android to work with different settings and features of their devices. Developers can also be caught in a bind with different specifications from different OEM’s. For example, some apps have been seen not to scale effectively because of different screen resolutions. As more devices move to 720p and 1080p, this will become less of an issue since developers will catch up to meet the new guidelines. Android has to be configured to work with all the different attributes that devices have, it’s not one size fits all. This is another determination used by the OEM in determining if a device can be upgraded. User Interface User Interface fragmentation can be attributed to the skins that the OEM’s run on top of Android. As mentioned before, Sense, Motoblur, and TouchWiz are the three main User Interfaces seen by the public. From icons to unlocking the device to setting up an email account, these skins developed by the OEM’s fragment the user interface on Android. These skins are also the main contributor to Operating System fragmentation. For those who believe Android will become the best operating system in the world, fragmentation is still an important issue. Since fragmentation means different things to different people, hopefully, this will help in terms of being specific in detailing the actual effects that fragmentation causes. Understanding that there are different types of fragmentation is helpful in understanding the issues facing you the consumer and the industry. Android will continue to get better, and some speculate that fragmentation will persist as an obstacle, but it won’t ruin Android. Fragementation image courtesy of obamapacman.org. Sources: ZDnet.com, DroidLife
by Jeff Foster Sprint 4G Rollout Updates Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 6:44 AM MST Everyone’s heard about Androids fragmented ecosystem, well we’re about to get some more. Jelly Bean, the new Android version 5.0 is coming, and soon. Some rumors suggest that Google’s next update may be coming out as soon as this summer. The first word about Jelly Bean was back in September 2011. There was just the announcement of the name and little else. In fact, so little information was released that it led many to believe that it may have been a hoax. Questions also arose if this was going to be an incremental upgrade or a big one? More recently, there was a tip that this new upgrade of Android would be Android 5.0 and would be released in the 2nd quarter of this year, and it would have features similar to Motorola’s desktop mode. This function would allow the phone when plugged in or attached via dock to simply adjust its user interface to desktop mode, although nothing has been confirmed. With the impending purchase of Motorola, there seems plausible. This leads us to believe that this upgrade may be more than some bug fixes and multitasking enhancements. Android 4.0 was designed to be the OS’s push into tablets, and so far has made little impact in the market. This isn’t surprising since its first announcement was just five months ago. Google reports that Ice Cream Sandwich holds 1% of Android market share. It appears that at first blush, Jelly Bean is possibly going to be tablet specific, which would indicate that Google is backing off its commitment to have a “one size fits all” OS like iOS for the iPhone/iPad. Again, this is just speculation at this point. Android Advice reports that Jelly Bean devices will have some nice new features, including the ability to switch between operating systems without the need to restart. The rumor of an early release could be to counter the unexpected rave reviews from upcoming Windows 8 tablets and the expectation of the impending iPad 3 release. If Google was to announce a big change to Androids core functionality, it would be more likely the announcement of Jelly Bean aka Android 5 would be at the yearly I/O conference in June. The likelihood of Google releasing new software this early is far-off. The desktop mode would be a nice feature added to Android but don’t expect to see it until late fall. S4GRU EDIT 9:36 AM MST: Computer World released an article this morning that says a Google Exec is claiming a Fall 2012 release for Android 5.0 Jelly Bean. Source: Slash Gear, Android Community, Android Advices