In an article by Derek Walter titled “Report: Google ‘tightening the screws’ on Android manufacturers” Google is supposedly trying to regain control of the Android franchise. Fragmentation of Android is a very real thing and it is affecting the user experience. It is also affecting Google in that companies, primarily Samsung, are going off in their own direction and adding apps that support Samsung rather than Google. Google charges nothing for the OS and its mechanism for making money is through say the use of Google search.
In fact, there are reports that a slight war is about to erupt between Google and Samsung over control of Android. To this point, Google will not rest until it can take control for the OS they have provided vendors.
Compromised User Experience and Developer Support
The contention that the user experience is being compromised is more than real. It also adds a tremendous drag on developers who are attempting to develop consistent apps for the Google environment. They have to develop to this fragmentation which is extremely difficult.
Unlike IOS, which provides a very consistent environment for development and for the user experience, Android currently and probably never will be able to provide such an environment. It’s sort of the nature of the beast. Linux, Unix and other OS’s are examples of this same phenomenon.
Oddly enough, possibly only BlackBerry has the best chance at being an alternative to IOS. At least at a theoretical level it is controlled by one company. It exists on only one platform. Even Windows phone is on a variety of platforms however, Microsoft does a good job at keeping it consistent across those platforms.
To Understand the Mac
This site is about the Mac. However, to appreciate and understand the Mac it is necessary sometimes to look at these other systems and what you’re getting. As an example, the idea that they’re cheaper is problematic because if you consider as say in the example resale value they are not cheaper.
IOS products have good resale value along with anything Macintosh. This has to be considered in one’s costs. Finally, cost becomes moot if the user experience is not good. Yes, you pay more for an IOS device but with that the experience is considered far better for the user. Much of the reason lies in the fact IOS is not a fragmented environment.
Systems and Outcome
Fragmentation dampened Unix’s and Linux’s hopes of ever being an alternative desktop platform. It has the potential to do this to Android.
If we follow this through logically it leaves only IOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone as alternatives that could potentially provide a solid user experience and an environment that developers can work solidly in. Windows phone however, has left users cold. One could easily question how successful Microsoft has been. Putting fragmentation aside Windows phone just has not grabbed the user’s heart.
One cannot though overlook that Windows phone is placed on a variety of platforms however, although there might be fragmentation it has not come up as such an issue as with Android. In fact, one thing Microsoft does heartily is try to ensure this is not an issue to the point they have been charged with anti-competitive spirit.
I do not think that IOS will prove monopolistic but just as an environment of choice due to its user experience and ease in which the developer can deliver sound applications. BlackBerry is BlackBerry and certainly isn’t fragmented and if they had phones that grabbed the user spirit developers would probably enjoy working with it. What happens with BlackBerry is very much an unknown and there is this love/hate relationship that exists.
Finally, there is Windows phone which is truly a crapshoot. Microsoft is a big company with tons of money and clout. If they’ve got a product that is not capturing the consumer mind, they just need something else. No one can ever rule Microsoft out.
Closed vs Open
However, for the moment I think it leaves Apple at the handset level. One thing bothers me though about Apple and it is that they are so closed. There are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, they provide an extremely robust environment for both the user and the user experience (everything talks to everything) and they provide a wonderful environment for the developer as he has so few devices to concern himself with.
Yet, how does anyone get into Apple. There is little as they provide almost no hooks to the external environment while Microsoft provides a number of hooks such as Exchange. it is a debate then between the open vs the closed environment. Pragmatically, a closed environment, like the Apple ecosystem, provides a wonderful user experience. An open environment can provide this but such some times deters from it. However, what such environment ensures is that various products can hook into the environment, bring functionality and work.
Certainly, Android is considered open but when it is fragmented it is presenting the worst side of open. The user experience is terrible and developers have a hard time keeping products working.
The ground where closed provides open hooks based on standards then is what Apple needs and doesn’t really provide or provides little of. Is Apple Pay a defacto standard or Apple Pay.
What one needs to do then is possibly turn to Apple for the end user experience but say Microsoft for the hooks into the external world. Nadella, the new CEO of Microsoft, is on to this. It would appear that Chen of BlackBerry is too.
That leaves Google. They have Android, an open operating system but they really want to control everything. This might sound a bit Machiavellian but be it as it may. They must deal with fragmentation but will they provide the hooks into the open world such as Microsoft. They’ve done a terrible job with Android and it is their partners who have made it a success. However, Android players are beginning to pull out as they’re loosing money. As an example, Sony is going.
What is to happen will be played out over time. One thing is clear. Apple is well positioned on the handset and desktop front and likely will continue to command the market. However, history reminds us that the technological front changes rapidly. it isn’t that long ago that Apple was about to go under and BlackBerry was on the top of the world. Change is guaranteed.
Apple will likely do well and possibly Google might get control again of Android although this is highly unlikely. BlackBerry is a wildcard in all of this and I think it unwise, considering the very unique position they’re in to even begin to think of them out of the game. They’re z30 is a wonderful handset and if they do more like this then all they need to do is get applications on board, certainly not one small task. is it impossible or even fanciful thinking. Likely not.
Windows phone is much like the BlackBerry phone except their Microsoft. I would think if it hasn’t taken off in the Windows 8.1 incarnation is it likely. Probably not. However, they’ve announced Windows 9 and this OS is to be free. Will it be a success. If Microsoft fails on Windows 9 like they have on Windows 8 I’ll be very surprised.
The fragmentation of Android is much more significant the deeper one analyzes what is going on. It is likely the landscape will change substantially. Apple is currently in vogue like it’s never been before. The fragmentation of Android should see Android players drop out like flies as they have trouble making any money. That leaves Google to get it together and they don’t have a good track record where it comes to this kind of thing.
BlackBerry and Microsoft have a great track record though plus they have experience. Who then would be likely to be able to take on Apple. Certainly though what BlackBerry and Microsoft bring to the table is great depth where it comes to infrastructure and at the end of the day, although it is our devices that make our user experience productive, usable and fun, there has to be a sound infrastructure to power all the apps, many of which will be networked and cloud based and it this these players are known for.
As it stands, Apple will, in the near term anyway, remain the force to be reckoned with. There’s really little wrong with this. It is likely we’ll see Apple controlling the end user experience via their iPhone, iPad, AppleTV and computers.
Android’s fragmentation will be it’s undoing. And Microsoft will play a strong roll in infrastructure and applications. BlackBerry is the wild card however, I would think with their unilateral control of a powerful mobile operating, they should be able to produce reasonable to good handsets. What they primarily provide, along with Microsoft is the glue and infrastructure to power powerful apps on powerful systems.
In systems, the landscape changes so rapidly sometimes you don’t realize a mountain, with great glory, is disappearing yet another one with just as great or greater glory is appearing. The landscape is most assuredly changing and what we can do today is no less than astounding compared to what we could do even five years ago. I suspect this rapidly evolving landscape will continue to reshape itself however, only with great fluidity and rapidity we have yet to see.