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Google Android — a Universe of Incompatible Devices

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the maybe-just-a-galaxy-or-two dept.

Operating Systems 636

snydeq writes "Galen Gruman writes about the dark side of the recent flood of Android smartphones: versions run amok. 'That flood of options should be a good thing — but it's not. In fact, it's a self-destruction derby in action, as phones come out with different versions of the Android OS, with no clear upgrade strategy for either the operating system or the applications users have installed, and with inconsistent deployment of core features. In short, the Android platform is turning out not to be a platform at all, but merely a starting point for a universe of incompatible devices,' Gruman writes. 'This mess leaves developers and users in an unstable position, as each new Android device adds another variation and compatibility question.' In the end, Google's naive approach to open sourcing Android may in fact be precipitating this free-for-all — one that might ultimately turn off both end-users and developers alike." As reader donberryman points out, you can even put Android onto some Windows Mobile phones, now.

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Just like desktop linux. (5, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245740)

This is essentially the same problem that desktop linux has.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (3, Insightful)

junkfish (460683) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245808)

Is it really a "problem"

my honda engine does not fit in that ford chassis

 

Re:Just like desktop linux. (4, Funny)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245866)

its a problem if you want your turbocharger, cold air intake, and ssh app to be interchangeable between the two

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1)

FalcDot (1224920) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246244)

Yeah, but what happens when your engine breaks?

You take it to the garage, who tells you they'll need to order a new one. Probably takes weeks (I have no first-hand experience but I doubt I'm far off).

Now imagine that your Honda engine was 100% compatible with any Ford chassis and any Renault chassis etc. Now, if you break your engine and go to the garage, there's a pretty good chance he will have a compatible engine in stock, because now having such a stock makes sense. It doesn't when there's a few hundred different engine models you need to stock.

And you get your car back the next day...

You get a phone, it runs Android, no problem. And, just like your car, as long as you don't want to change anything or add anything, it won't become a problem.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246296)

For older vehicles, you can change the mounts out to squeeze in a new engine. My old Ford truck has mounts available to at least be able to put in GM engines (which use the same mounts for all their lines, IIRC, with perhaps some changes over the years); I bet I can find one to put in a Toyota or Honda motor too. More interesting would be seeing if the transmission would work with the new motor.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245912)

This is essentially the same problem that desktop linux has.

You mean that desktop linux has several packaging systems you can choose from? Or that (zomg) there are different desktop managers with special feature sets, whose programs you can still run while using a different manager as long as you install needed libraries/prerequisites? Oh wait, this sounds like no problem at all!

I fail to see your point.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246036)

This is essentially the same problem that desktop linux has.

You mean that desktop linux has several packaging systems you can choose from? Or that (zomg) there are different desktop managers with special feature sets, whose programs you can still run while using a different manager as long as you install needed libraries/prerequisites?

And all of that stuff is simple to do for the non-tech savvy crowd (80-90%) of the population), right?

Re:Just like desktop linux. (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246176)

Sure it is. You just go to the "app store" and click on the application you want to install.

The system sorts out the relevant details.

Or I could type "apt-get install kdenlive".

If you are into binaries and want to "get fancy" then you can have a self contained tarball that has everything it needs very much in the style of OpenStep.

One wonders if this Android hysteria is as unfounded as the FUD about different Linuxen being incompatable with each other.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1, Informative)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246338)

What the hell is kdenlive?

Seriously.

No, I can't be bothered to google it. My point is exactly the GP's point.
80-90% of the population has no idea what the hell you just said.
And it's clearly obvious you just don't get that.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (2, Insightful)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246340)

That's supposed to be funny right? You say something is easy then give a few examples of how the normal joe user would get totally lost. You're being sarcastic. Right?

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246194)

And all of that stuff is simple to do for the non-tech savvy crowd (80-90%) of the population), right?

There's another 80-90% of the population? :-o No wonder I never go outside anymore.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246180)

No, he means stuff like different versions of the kernel and libraries I think, which made it impossible for me to run geordi on debian without some serious tweaking a year ago.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245914)

This is essentially the same problem that desktop linux has.

The same problem, and the same strength.

Centralized has some advantages over decentralized, and some disadvantages. If linux were just RedHat, it could never have become Ubuntu. On the other hand, it's frustrating when even copy/paste doesn't always work :)

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1, Interesting)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245932)

I (proud Nexus One owner) would still take Android over Iphone or Windows phones

something empowering about having more freedom and choice than these 2 locked down and bastardized "platforms" where now i cant even download an app with boobies in it!

Re:Just like desktop linux. (2, Informative)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246006)

Perhaps I'm confused, but how are Windows phones locked down? I can download any Windows Mobile application and install it on my phone...there is a little warning that pops up if it is "unsigned", but all you have to do is hit ok or yes and it installs...there is nothing preventing you from installing whatever you want on there.

Are you just referring to Windows Phone 7...?

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246294)

Yeah, it was my understanding that the Android app store was more locked down than the typical method of distribution for WM phones.

Yes, a warning pops up when something is unsigned. What's nice is that Windows Mobile will REMEMBER your decision and not ask you again unless it detects that the executable file has changed. Just enough protection (This app is unsigned, are you sure you want to install it?) without being annoying ("The Gmail Java applet is unsigned. Are you sure you want to connect to the Internet? This may result in data charges." over and over again - I HAVE AN UNLIMITED DATA PLAN, STOP ASKING ME ON EVERY URL REQUEST DAMMIT!")

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245948)

Kind of. google could have forced all phone makers to adhere to a specific set of standards or they cant use the google apps or the Android name or even the graphics on the UI.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (-1, Troll)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245966)

More like the exact same problem as Windows Mobile, only Windows Mobile doesn't seem to have a different version every three months.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246116)

I'm a little confused by this post. From the sounds of it I could download a "Motorola Droid" application and it would not work on the "Google Nexis One" as the don't share the same core libs.

But I had a Windows Mobile 5 device, I now have a Windows 6 device and a friend has the Windows Mobile 6.5 device. A Windows Mobile application work work happily on all three devices.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1)

edmicman (830206) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246258)

Sure, but there are Google Nexus One apps that don't work on the Droid, and conversely there are apps that work on the Droid that don't work on many many 1.5 and 1.6 Android phones that are *still* actively being sold.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245972)

What was the only thing missing from the Million Man March? Three miles of chain and an auctioneer.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1)

da_matta (854422) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245986)

...and just like Series60 (=Symbian) and Windows Mobile to a smaller extent. Nokia is really the saddest example as their "lack of platform" was a strategic choice to let product lines "compete & innovate" between themselves leading to incompatible versions of nearly identical OS & HW. Androids problem is really that it's so "bare bones" that OEM's have to implement many things themselves leading to incompatibilities where they don't have to exist. Apple approach (one OS for all iterations) is clearly the best, but only possible in a single vendor environment.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (2, Insightful)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246064)

This is essentially the same problem that desktop linux has.

Hey - let's not stop there. This is essentially the same problem that desktop Windows has.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (5, Insightful)

diamondsw (685967) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246348)

Except a Win32 binary will Just Work, pretty much anywhere, on any version since NT4/2000. Look at Putty for a great example. The fact that Android has fragmented this badly in just two years on the market is deeply troubling.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246352)

Explain in detail, please, how the Windows operating system has this exact same problem.

Re:Just like desktop linux. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246094)

No it isn't. The "problem" the author is talking about is no different than the "problem" with developing for Windows, desktop Linux, server Linux, Windows Mobile, BREW, J2ME, BlackBerry, etc... Basically its a "problem" with *every* platform - including the iPhone now that iPhone apps are supposed to work on the iPad (different form factor, screen size, features, etc...)

However, unlike all those other platform, Android supports some *very* powerful tools in resource selection and defining what API you are targeting. Target the 1.5 SDK, and it will work on 1.6, 2.0, and 2.1 because Android *knows* what SDK you are targeting. You can also specify that the "bg_image" resource be different based upon various criteria like screen DPI, whether it is in portrait or landscape mode, etc... and Android will pick the right resource without the developer needing to do anything in code. It is a very powerful system that works very well. You can also define what features your app requires. Require a trackball? You can tell Android that you require one. Require a tilt sensor? Tell Android you require one.

The real problem is that developers go into Android thinking that its development model is the same as every other platform and it just isn't. Google solved so many of the problems that these journalists are writing about and they solved it so elegantly. Spend 10 minutes reading through the Android SDK documentation and you will quickly see how incredibly non-issue many of these "developer complaints" are.

Mod Parent Down (0, Offtopic)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246210)

The moderators have taken a break from reality. This is nonsense.

ARM/X86 desktop distros can communicate just fine with each other. Avahi, network file systems are two high-level examples used in desktop distros that make communicating between distros easy.

Maybe the moderators are confusing Microsoft and Apple hostility to interoperability with Linux? The problem is at Microsoft and Apple, not the Linux community.

Re:Mod Parent Down (5, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246248)

No, I think what the OP means is that an app developed on one release of one distro is not guaranteed to work on any version of any other distro, or even any other version of the same distro.

This isn't about machines talking to one another, it's about software dependency resolution (or lack thereof).

Re:Mod Parent Down (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246312)

One would assume the different android-based phones likewise have no trouble communicating with each other (making calls) but that the applications released or one won't necessarily work on another.

Google Goggles (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245744)

Google Goggles are the Apple Anal Dildo of nerd-friendly mobile phones.

Sounds a lot like another OS... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245756)

umm... Linux....

Re:Sounds a lot like another OS... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246182)

umm... Linux....

Well umm... It is Linux...

- Turn off users? (0, Troll)

AmericanInKiev (453362) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245774)

Right - because a plethora of unique PC machines hasn't worked out as well as apple's - more-expensive-all-the-time strategy.

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245934)

Right - because a plethora of unique PC machines hasn't worked out as well as apple's - more-expensive-all-the-time strategy.

If you'd RTA, you'd see he noted that the difference between PC's & cell phones is the relative ease with which you can change Operating Systems. If you try out a flavor of linux and it doesn't pan out, you can always install Windows. With cell phones, you're stuck with what the carrier gives you, you can't decide to upgrade arbitrarily. With Apple, at least you can count on the vast majority of devices running the same OS.

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

jsoderba (105512) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245946)

All of those unique PC machines are running the same OS: Microsoft Windows. If every PC maker was shipping their own OS the PC market would look like the Unix market circa 1990.

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

Afell001 (961697) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246088)

No one argues that the desktop PC is essentially owned by Windows (at this current time) but Apple holds a much larger share of the desktop than Linux does, and mostly because there are so many flavors of Linux available, and even when you can agree on one distro, there is a fight over which windowing system, which development architecture, etc., since there are no real standards as everything is open. Sometimes, having too many options is as bad as having no options at all. With the handheld market, where hardware resources are limited, in order to remain interoperable across a wide variety of devices, there has to be a requirement of some level of standardization of features. If there is no standardization, then the burden falls to the developer to either come up with a mechanism that copes with a variety of features, or to the developers responsible for the IDE that theses developers use to keep an updated framework of which features are available for which devices. In the end, you can very well end up with apps developed for Android that will only be able to run on a select list of devices, as that is the list that the developer is willing to take time to design around. If anyone wants it to work on their specific device, well, then they can damn well get in there and do it themselves (the old OSS saw, if you don't like it, here's the source code, fix it yourself). Apple's model is both inferior and superior at the same time. By limiting the hardware, they are able to guarantee a certain level of interoperability of the software between devices. Sure, we will probably get some drift as newer, faster, bigger, more powerful devices come out. But, for now, if you develop an app for the iPhone, you can be reasonably guaranteed that any iPhone will be able to run it. That's the superiority. The inferiority is the closed development process once it leaves the developers hands. Sure it would be nice if I can load the software directly to my iPhone (I can, in fact, if I want to void my warranty and contract, that is), but for now, in order to maintain mass market appeal and compliance, developers are tied to Apples AppStore model if they want to develop on the iPhone (legally, that is).

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246138)

Paragraphs are your friend.

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246262)

> No one argues that the desktop PC is essentially owned by Windows (at this current time)
> but Apple holds a much larger share of the desktop than Linux does,

        That's highly debatable.

> and mostly because there are so many flavors of Linux available

        So is this.

Apple ADVERTISES. This is why it is where it is now versus 10 years ago. Whether
or not Linux is "fragmented" really has nothing to do with it. Macs were supposed
to be "technologically superior" 25 years ago or 15 years ago. Yet the platform
languished in the shadow of MS-DOS long enough for other alternatives to come and
go entirely.

Apple today is much more significant as a consumer electronics vendor than an OS
or computer vendor. What success it has as a PC vendor is more a side effect of
their music player business than anything else.

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246110)

Let's take a closer look:

Then, there was Apple and there was Wintel, and they made up about 98% of the PC market with Wintel holding about 95%.
Now, there is Apple on Intel and Windows on Intel and Intel work-a-likes holding 95% of the PC market with FLOSS a distant third. And, Wintel still has over 85% of the market

Looks like that "plethora of unique PC machines" aren't so unique after all. The peripheral hardware may change but the processors and the OS are pretty much standard on every every machine.

This article is about how Android implementations are different between machines. That is a lot like the FLOSS model, and we have seen how well that has worked out against the other PC OS offerings.

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246306)

Every Windows PC is a unique snowflake.

So Linux and Android aren't particularly interesting in this respect.

The idea that Linux is any more diverse than the average Windows PC
is just mindless FUD that neglects the fact that WinDOS application
installers have always mucked around with the core system in order
to make application installers seem transparent.

Even Apple does stuff like this.

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246122)

Right - because a plethora of unique PC machines hasn't worked out as well as apple's - more-expensive-all-the-time strategy.

All PCs have keyboard/mouse input. The different Droids have [keyboard or not]/[multitouch or singletouch]. Most PCs run some flavor of Windows, so the OS is constant for ~5-7 years; the Droid is already on the second (incompatible) version of the OS. If you developed for Windows 95, you were good until XP. If you developed for XP, you were good until Vista. If you developed for Droid, oops, redo.

The bottom line is PCs have essentially the same hardware, with a well-abstracted OS. Speed may vary, but most machines can do anything any other can. The Droids have so much different functionality it cannot be abstracted, so you cannot write-once run-everywhere. And until you can, the app market is going to be mcuh smaller. And since the only reason to get a smart-phone is to run apps, the Droid OS is in a state of flux.

Re: - Turn off users? (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246278)

You mean, the plethora of Desktop Linux variants has worked well against MacOS's and Windows's unified approach. Or not ...

The problems with multiple versions for the exact same devices and uses are:
- developper confusion: should I target the lowest common denominator ? the latest one ?
- consumer confusion: what is Android exactly ? Why doesn't my phone do what yours does ?
- effort duplication. I dream about how good the Linux desktop would be if, instead of having 6-7 of them, all efforts had been poured into one or two.
- incompatibility issues.

I think Google wanted to get something out the door very quickly, at the cost of screwing early adopters. We should see the versions waltz slow down soon, since Android seems to have more or less reached feature parity vs iPhone. I'm still holding out for a bit.

Re: - Turn off users? XBOX PSX WII are all wrong (1)

fuzzylollipop (851039) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246328)

and according to your logic the XBOX and Playstation and Wii are all failures as well.

Utter bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245776)

if i had the time Id go out and find many other biased articles this author has written but i dont.

J2ME again (4, Insightful)

mlk (18543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245814)

Sounds like what happened with J2ME. Everyone buggered off and did their own thing with it making it a real arse for developers. For a mobile platform to be useful for developers it really should be standardized in basic capabilities (CPU, memory, libraries and screen sizes).

Re:J2ME again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246028)

oh you poor dears. All the phones have to have the same cpu memory and screen sizes?

Re:J2ME again (1)

mlk (18543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246270)

CPU/Memory specs - Yes a base should be set for the platform. Mobile phone makers can go about that if they like.
Screen sizes - Yes a set of screen sizes or a set ratio.

We are talking _platform_ not phone. And the point of a platform is to allow developers to cheaply target many devices.

bs (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245824)

this is a stupid ass article and completely wrong.

just who paid Gruman to type this shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245830)

A phone, is a phone, is a phone, it only has to be compatible with the rest of the phone network. This sounds like the same fud they use against Linux and Open Source. If it has a small user base then they invoke the lack of support issue. When the market expands then they invoke the distro fragmentation issue.

It's Infoworld, who do you think paid them? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245988)

Of course it's a hit piece, it's from Infoworld. Their business model is to take corporate press releases, put one of their "author's" names on them, and publish them as if they were news.

No. A phone is not a phone. (5, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246274)

I'm tired of hearing this bullshit, especially on Slashdot and supposed technology sites.

"The most important thing is that it makes calls. After all, it's a phone."

Anyone who cares most about "making calls" is living in the last century. I almost don't give a shit if my phone makes calls via the phone network. It's more important to me that it can Skype via WiFi. It's more important to me that it can check my email, run a Web browser, check my bank accounts, post to my blog, view what's in my Dropbox on the go, take notes, and manage my calendar and to-do lists.

It is a "phone" only because that name was grandfathered in over several generations. In fact, the "phone" is the LEAST important part of these mobile devices for me. The most important are data accessibility, ease of backing up/upgrades, and the features of built-in applications and installable apps vis-a-vis the network and network service/information providers of various types.

Re:just who paid Gruman to type this shit (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246336)

that would be true if phones only offered calling, and maybe texting, a 1-line screen and number keys.

this is no longer the case.

no upgrades?? (5, Informative)

ccole8 (1752350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245832)

This is so completely untrue! Android checks for upgrades every 24 hours, and allows you to easily upgrade any of your applications or the entire OS itself. I've owned the Droid since it first came out, and the ease of upgrading is one of the features I've been fairly impressed with.

Re:no upgrades?? (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245852)

Wait... you can upgrade the OS on your phone?

My mind has been blown...

Re:no upgrades?? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246012)

Yup and Symbian phones have been able to for a long time as well. I just upgraded my wifes Nokia 3800's OS and app package. it even flashed a new firmware to the Radiomodem.

Did it over the air too.

Re:no upgrades?? (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246126)

iPhone does it as well. There are several versions of iPhone OS, even if there have been less hardware platforms per se.

Re:no upgrades?? (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245958)

Uh, no. Because my Galaxy is stuck at 1.5, so no, you cannot just easily upgrade.

Re:no upgrades?? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245964)

There in lies the problem though - some smartphones are designed with a very specific Droid OS In mind, so upgrading your droid could be over writing whatever open sourced hack was written to make features work.

Or, in certain cases

Yay I have the latest version of android!

How come my calendar lost all its appointments?

Re:no upgrades?? (4, Insightful)

dirk (87083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245992)

While this is true to some extent, does your phone have Android 2.1? Unless you hacked it, the answer is no. So it does small incremental upgrades, but there hasn't been a major version upgrade pushed this way, which is what this article is talking about. There are phones currently being sold with at least 3 version of android (1.6, 2.0. and 2.1), with no current upgrade path to get to the next major version.

This is the big problem with WinMobile phones, and will be a huge issue for Android phones unless they get an upgrade path out there. If the phone can take it, there is no reason not to allow them to upgrade to the newest version of the OS.

Re:no upgrades?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246062)

The summary talks about the upgrade strategy for the OS and apps on phones in general, not about the OS update feature. Basically, some phones may break if Android updates and some applications may have problems or fail. For the user of a given phone, they don't know what version they should have and never know if all the apps provided with their particular phone will continue to work as their OS updates.Google did fine with their update feature, but the marketplace is a jumble right now leading to uncertainty whether a "Android" application will work on a particular phone and if a phone will work with a particular Android OS update.

Re:no upgrades?? (5, Informative)

Mr.Bananas (851193) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246096)

Um... I think by "easily upgrade" you mean "easily upgrade to any level sanctioned by your mobile carrier." For example, the Samsung Moment is stuck at version 1.5 right now until Sprint feels like letting its users upgrade to 1.6. The G1 I think is at 1.6 by now, but only after T-Mobile felt like issuing updates. Meanwhile the Droid is at 2.0 until Verizon feels like rolling 2.1, and the Nexus One is at 2.1, which is currently the latest version.

So... yeah, the article raises a good point. It also highlights one of the benefits of rooting your phone- the *real* open source community behind Android is the modders, which try their best to keep your phone at the highest level of Android the hardware can take. I think the Android OS has incredible potential at the end of the day to really be something special, but standardization may be one of its biggest roadblocks. The steadily loosening death-grip of the carriers needs to completely go away, though.

This was predictable ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245860)

... since all the manufacturers were waiting for Google's customer support to call them back with 'compatibility information'.

Perhaps (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245870)

Perhaps what is needed is the benevolent dictator model, before something can be called "android".

Perhaps.

just got a droid (1)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245872)

I needed better remote web access than my previous phone provided. I will have to say so far I am happy with it as a phone and mobile web device. I am a little disappointed in the games available (something to kill time while waiting in the drs office), but that is a small part of why I got it.
But the premise of the story does worry me a little. This is one area where a central control point (ie apple or microsoft) has a huge advantage in my opinion. A failure in the android market will confirm this as a potential defect in open source. Time will tell.

Maybe not a crisis (0)

hey (83763) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245882)

Just do:

if (hasCompass())
{
    doCompassStuff()
}

etc

Re:Maybe not a crisis (1)

cabjf (710106) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246154)

The issue thus far though has been that one cannot easily upgrade to the latest and greatest version of Android until the manufacturer and network provider decide it is time to. Right now there are at least three or four different versions of Android running out there. At least when Apple releases a new iPhone OS, all the iPhones get the update at the same time.

Re:Maybe not a crisis (1)

jonesy16 (595988) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246280)

Not necessarily, the "downside" to the Apple model is that you're never forced to upgrade and you can't do it over the air. There are plenty of people still running phones on the 2.x series of iPhone OS.

Re:Maybe not a crisis (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246324)

Yes, because code like that is so pleasant to work with.

if (hasCompassV2()) { // do something;
} else if (hasCompassV1()) { // do soemthing slightly different
} else if (hasOldBrokenCompass()) { // do painful work around
} else if (hasOtherThing()) { // fake it up using the other thing
} else if (hackTestForPropertyX()) { // do something nasty
} else { //damn it, just draw a non-working icon
}

And of course now whenever you change something you have to test it on a dozen variants to make sure you didn't break any.

And then of course you find one that hasCompassV2() us true, but has a something broken/different so you need to special case that one out to...

Re:Maybe not a crisis (1)

tkinnun0 (756022) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246374)

You forgot a few tests: isCompassHalfBroken(), isCompassReallySlow(), isCompassSometimesWildlyInaccurate(), isCompassJustAPieceOfCrap().

Oh no! It's InfoWorld! (4, Insightful)

Optic7 (688717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245890)

Looks like they haven't learned anything from the Windows 7 memory FUD scandal.

Re:Oh no! It's InfoWorld! (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246188)

At least they ratted out the source that was going to have them lead with the story that Android phones were eating babies.

This is EXACTLY why I don't have an andoid phone.. (1, Flamebait)

nweaver (113078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245900)

The proliferating, incompatible versions is precisely why I don't have an android powered smartphone. I really like Verizon's service (thus no iPhone: AT&T == Satan), but the Android phones are scattered and disjoint: they all look different, they all are different, and I'd hate to develop on them because its worse than windows: a proliferating set of devices, all different and all inconsistent.

Yep. Android's cool, BUT (3, Informative)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245916)

I just got a Samsung Galaxy this month, because my old WinMo 6.0 phone was crap and needed to be put down. It runs Android 1.5. There's no plans to upgrade it to 2.0. I knew this when I got it, and if I could have, I'd have waited until I could have gotten a 2.0 phone. But the platform fragments even within forks just because manufacturers don't bother to update the system. I figure in a year or so, I won't be able to find any new apps that work with my phone because they'll all be written for the newest version. Say what you will about Windows Mobile (it sucks), but at least you can rest assured that you'll be on a level playing field with other phones, app-wise. Hell, I probably could have upgraded my old phone to 6.5, if it wasn't busted. Platform solidarity and longevity are important if you want it to be a success.

Re:Yep. Android's cool, BUT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246356)

The last WinMo (Pocket PC actually) device that I had is forever stuck with PPC 2003. Despite the fact that it is just as powerful as devices that came out afterwards, I can't upgrade it because the vendor (Dell) won't allow it and MS, last I checked, only gives upgrades through vendors. A lot of stuff won't work on it.
People can say what they will about Apple, but at least they let people upgrade (sure, they'll charge you).

LOL (3, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245920)

Here is some background on the article author: http://www.zangogroup.com/galen.html [zangogroup.com]

Anyone else get the feeling that he is the Pat Goss [goss-garage.com] of the computer world? I.e. getting paid to pretend he knows what he is doing?

Re:LOL (1)

exabrial (818005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246032)

"Galen also provides a variety of editorial services, including research, idea generation"

Clearly an aspiring congressional lobbyist

Wasn't JAVA supposed to prevent this? (1)

jp102235 (923963) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245922)

Why isn't JAVA (or some JAVA-like byte code embedded language) being used to address this- wasn't that the point of JAVA? I am not a CS guy, so maybe somebody can clue me in.

JP

Re:Wasn't JAVA supposed to prevent this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246172)

This generally works, as long as you don't, for example, depend on Java libraries that aren't on the device. For example, a`pparently Kindle for Blackberry is limited to specific devices because it depends on net.rim.device.api.ui and it's not on older phones.

http://forums.crackberry.com/f35/kindle-blackberry-out-424390/index3.html

Java isn't a software cure-all. If you depend on some new feature on the phone or in the OS, you depend on it, and Java can't fix that.

Re:Wasn't JAVA supposed to prevent this? (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246302)

By universe of incompatible devices they mean the hardware itself is different (different screen resolution, system memory, camera resolution, accelerometer available, kind of touch screen available) making it hard to develop an application that works on any device. Google can easily fix this by making standard certified hardware platforms. In reality they probably will not bother at all. This also happens with the PC platform and people manage fine.

Android uses Dalvik which is a sort of Java like VM.

PCs all over again (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31245936)

Is it just me or is the smartphone market looking exactly like the computer market did in the transition from minicomputers to personal computers? Blackberry and the old Palms are the minis. Then there's the hot shot closed system in the iPhone and the competing disparate open systems in Android, Web OS, and the new Windows Mobile. I'm hoping for a partial repeat of the PC market: Open wins. But hopefully somebody besides Microsoft comes out on top this time. Maybe Amiga will make a comeback on the smart phone!

tradegy... strife... and fired please (5, Insightful)

exabrial (818005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245940)

OH ANDROID IS A COUNTRY SONG.

If I remember right, pundits were predicting the death of android because google was releasing the Nexus One.

Next, Android was going to flail and explode because evil Google wasn't bothering to spend time pushing irrelavent patches all the main Kernel tree (yes, because I want a phone's security model on my desktop linux please).

Now, horors of horors, a _very very very small_ percentage of applications don't work everywhere. I predict complete failure as a platform. No operating system platform in the world has experienced this and managed to suceeed.


I couldn't stand to RTFA; does the author of the article own an Android device? I do, and it's a v1.5 (Samsung Moment). In a few months, it'll be upgraded to v2.1. Till then, I've downloaded exactly _one_ application that isn't compatibile with 1.5. Time to sing about tradgedy, strife and whatever analyst wrote this getting fired.

Much like Linux... (-1, Redundant)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245950)

'That flood of options should be a good thing -- but it's not. In fact, it's a self-destruction derby in action, as phones come out with different versions of the Android OS, with no clear upgrade strategy for either the operating system or the applications users have installed, and with inconsistent deployment of core features. In short, the Android platform is turning out not to be a platform at all, but merely a starting point for a universe of incompatible devices,'

Much like Linux...

Growing pains, not worsethan older phones (3, Insightful)

Coopjust (872796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31245956)

The idea of Android isn't bad - far from it. From what I've seen, HTC's software was pretty shoddy before Anrdoid, but the hardware was solid, for instance. And while I don't own an Android device, I have used it and heard great feedback from friends.

Google's rules on Android are important, because Google has reached a fork in the road.
  • Google can continue to keep Android very free in its usage terms. ODMs will continue to like and adapt the OS to their devices, but they may provide custom interfaces, choose not to release upgrades for the phone OS. Inconsistency may drive people away.
  • Google restricts the terms of usage, sets forth rules on UI consistency, upgrades, etc...this provides a more consistent experience but may scare device makers away.

Google might do the former now (to spur adoption) and the latter later, once everyone is using the OS. It's tough to say, because if Google tries to tighten control too early, they'll lose their support, while if they're too late, people may have already given up on developing for the platform.

Say what you want about Apple (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246000)

But at least there's a very controlled and limited number of different configurations for their hardware.

From a programmer point of view, Android is a total mess (a LOT of different screen resolutions, completely different input methods and layouts, etc).

Rogers.... sigh (1)

zcold (916632) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246044)

Im still very annoyed over the basterdized HTC Dream that rogers released last year. What I have come to find out about the phone is that google had nothing to do with it other than create android. If you own a Rogers HTC Dream or Magic, you essentially have a Cheap Android Knockoff. I was recently forced an update, a good update, as it allowed me to make 911 calls while GPS is enabled. But sadly I am stuck waiting on rogers, who are waiting on HTC to release 1.6 software for the phone. Which nobody is sure if it even works. The hardware is different and god only knows what they have done to the software. They even stripped the soft keyboard out of the Dream... I had to manually install it. My brother has a dream dev phone and every day he will show me something his phone can do that mine can not. Google really dropped the ball with this and should have had some very strict standards when allowing someone to make and release an android capable device.

Who said it was going to be easy? (5, Interesting)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246048)

What you think Microsoft just screwed up Windows Mobile on purpose for all those years?

Look at history, Windows Mobile came out swinging strong, kicking butt and taking names, and then it got bogged down in its own ecosytem as it attempted to support an ever wider and wider range and form factors of devices running on more and more different hardware platforms.

Mobile deviecs are far more complicated than desktops, both in terms of the little things (boot loaders!) to the big things (OEM relations!)

Microsoft learned this, I don't see how Google expected to basically copy Microsoft's mobile OS strategy (in every detail except for pricing) and have any less issues.

Re:Who said it was going to be easy? (1)

cabjf (710106) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246190)

Technically, Google is just responsible for the core OS. It's supposed to be up to the manufacturers to release and support upgrades. I'm not sure how that is supposed to be any better for the end user as now instead of waiting for upgrades from Google, we get an additional wait until the manufacturer decides to release an update (with almost no incentive to do so for older phones).

Carrier Footdragging (2, Insightful)

capitaladot (1132409) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246058)

It kept MMS off the iPhone, caused the stagnation in Windows Mobile, and is forcing this. Regulatory (or legislative) intervention in the form of forcing carriers to decouple phone provision from the network (following from Carterphone in the wired telco world) is one solution. Perhaps there are others?

dont count your chickens before they die (1)

Ryyuajnin (862754) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246100)

more comparable to a solar system really (T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, Deathstar/at&t); Android being the sun, carriers the planets. If Google is in the same position with the other carriers as it is with T-Mobile, it has the ultimate authority over the platform; perhaps being able to remove apps remotely isn't the only administrative advantage Google retains? Still, ultimately the carriers that use best practices in terms of interoperability, will effectively be a single force in the android system. We'll see how this massing Linux community manifests; mistakes will be made, lessons will be learned. I for one remain confident that this project will live up to the hype in ways we haven't yet imagined :)

Same exact issue as WinMo 5/6 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246124)

As a Windows Mobile developer, I can attest to this being a real (and really annoying) issue. At least Android has higher minimum requirements than WM6 does, but the variety of resolutions, DPI, and hardware features, makes it extremely painful to develop for the platform. I'm normally an Apple hater, but they really did something right with the iPhone, in terms of consistency. I still wouldn't be caught dead with one, but I can see the attraction. It looks like MS is learning from their own (and Android's) mistakes, and Apple's success, about device consistency with Windows Phone 7 Series (idiotic name, but that's another story). The device requirements are very strict, so it should be easier to develop for it.

Fake Steve Jobs is happy (5, Funny)

cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246156)

Real Steve Jobs too busy rolling around on a pile of money wearing nothing but a black mock-turtleneck to supply quotes for this interview.

No different ... (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246160)

As reader donberryman points out, you can even put Android onto some Windows Mobile phones, now.

How is hacking Android onto hardware it wasn't designed for any different from hacking OS X onto hardware Apple doesn't support? I don't think you can count "misuse" as a fault of Google.

The rest of it, yes I can agree. There needs to be more specific handling of hardware and software requirements. But to be fair, RIM has a twisted inconsistency of which of their own devices can run which versions of the Blackberry software and what all of their capabilities are. Even Apple's line of iDevices and Macintosh computers have had issues over the years of which devices could do what.

Choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246218)

Yep, that's why I'm going today to get my iPhone on the Verizon network....oh, wait...

autoconf (1)

oglueck (235089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246220)

We need something like autoconf for Android:

if (hasCompass() && compassProbablyWorks() && !compassIsKnownBroken() && compass.type != COMPASS_GPS && a myriard of other creative stuff) {
    doCompassStuff();
}

Fast Time to Market (0)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246276)

and compatibility are two conflicting goals.

The fault lies with Google. They need to step up and either enforce *some* kinds of compatibility.

The devs at the mobile phone brands certainly don't have the time allocated to being compatible with their competitors phones. The executive staff would have apoplectic fits of rage if *they* had to bear the burden of maintaining compatibility.

It is not a problem it is an opportunity. (3, Interesting)

2obvious4u (871996) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246290)

This "problem" isn't a problem at all, it is an opportunity for a business. The freedom of the Android platform could use some development house to take the lead. They should pick a platform or 3 that are the most popular and develop their own version of Android as well as quality applications and quality application reviews. They need to find the best apps in the app market and improve them and brand them so that they are guaranteed to work on their version of Android and have customer support or at least real bug tracking and message boards for suggestions to bug fixes. Maybe even sell it as a monthly service. Something that would really stand out.

If I didn't already have a job and I had the start up capital I would have already been working on it, but since I have a nice job and no start up capital I leave it up to someone else to develop a business around the Android platform. Currently there is a hodgepodge of unheard of development houses making apps that look like they were developed by undergrads.

All I see (1)

TheQuantumShift (175338) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246354)

Is weaker (cheaper) devices use older versions of the OS, which is understandable. Maybe a clear definition of class of devices would help.
  • Android basic. Version 1.5/6, limited app compatibility.
  • Android standard. Version 2.0 and up, full compatibility.
  • Android custom. Carrier/Manufacturer modified (motoblur, etc.) see your OEM for compatibility.

And no, no "Ultimate". Ever.

I am a little surprised by the incompatibilities between the version, but I really think more and more devices will standardize on >=2.0 now that the platform has stabilized and the hardware required to run it has gotten cheaper.

Google's own approach: fork-and-extend (4, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31246358)

Google's own approach is to fork everything they use... Sure, they make their changes available, but, apparently, don't try very hard to just stick to the original versions of whatever they pick.

The more famous of recent examples are the forks in Chrome [lwn.net] . The changes, that Google made to their own versions, are substantial enough for their forks to be incompatible with the stock versions in too many cases. Was that really necessary?.. Google thinks, it was, but I am not convinced by their argument [neugierig.org] . At all...

Hard to blame the device-makers for taking a particular snapshot of Android OS, forking it, and not wanting to retest everything for an upgrade six months later...

I always liked Sun's position, prohibiting forks of Java by the very license — for this exact reason. You may think, you need to fix this burning bug with "the fierce urgency of now", but, by creating your own slightly-incompatible fork, you are doing more harm than good. (Such local forks are only excusable, when the upstream project is dead or almost dead...)

Too many programmers, too few software engineers...

No arguments again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246362)

Same situation is with Symbian. And? There are plenty of apps, and plenty of phones with symbian (uiq3, 6.0, etc.) which are not compatible. Though devs somehow manage it. And if vendor X does not release an application Y, vendor Z does. I've had my SE M600i phone for almost three years, and got almost all the applications i needed.

Now i own a motorola milestone. and it's fantastic.I don't care if Nexus supports some apps that milestone does not, or vice versa. I've got almost every application i needed. Though maybe i'm not a regular user? i don't need applications that whistle, make noises or "poop"

And the article .. it only mentions Iphone, Blackberry, but hey, Nokia has around 40% of mobile market share. and hey, they make A LOT of phones running symbian. Post some real arguments. Uh wait.. but this is slashdot.

I don't understand the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31246368)

Of course I didn't read the article, but I don't understand how application and platform upgrades can't be performed easily.

All these phones need is apt/yum or similar packaging system and have the app stores be a part of that. Each flavor of android should have it's own repositories just as each distribution of linux does.

As new versions of apps appear, you upgrade. As the new versions of the platform appear, you dist-upgrade. Of course all this should be presented in a simple GUI.

From the developer side, check for feature support before you use them.

What's the big deal?

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