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Devs Grapple With 100+ Versions of Android

CmdrTaco posted about 4 years ago | from the propagation-of-the-androids dept.

Google 386

Barence writes "The scale of the challenge facing Android developers has been laid bare by Twitter client TweetDeck. During beta testing of its new software, TweetDeck encountered more than 36,000 testers using an enormous pool of 244 different handsets. Not only was hardware for the platform fragmented, but Tweetdeck had to contend with more than a hundred different versions of Android, highlighting just how muddled the market is for the open-source platform. The splintering of Android is making life difficult for app developers. 'It's not particularly harder to develop for Android over iPhone (from a programming standpoint),' said Christopher Pabon, a developer who writes apps for both the iPhone and Android platforms. 'Except when it comes to final quality assurance and testing. Then it can be a nightmare (a manageable nightmare, mind you).'"

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Objective C Java Poo (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33894930)


It's not particularly harder to develop for Android over iPhone

Other than the fact you're stuck using a crappy Java hack compared to nice Objective C (which compiles plain C just fine, thankyouverymuch)

Signed,
Anonymous App Developer with Nice Sales

Re:Objective C Java Poo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895038)

I'd take Java over ObjectiveC any day.

Anonymous App Developer with Nice Sales

Re:Objective C Java Poo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895610)

I'll take Objective C over Java any day.

Anonymous Consumer willing to spend money on quality.

Re:Objective C Java Poo (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895702)

As a consumer of apps, why the fuck should you care what language the platform uses?

Anonymous troll posting 2girls1cup videos.

Re:Objective C Java Poo (3, Insightful)

e70838 (976799) | about 4 years ago | (#33895878)

I am very happy that good languages like java and objective C have put C++ out of hype.

Question (2, Insightful)

slaxative (1867220) | about 4 years ago | (#33894964)

They forgot one bit of relevant information. So how long did it this massive job take?

sounds to me like android is guilty of (2, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | about 4 years ago | (#33894976)

...being too successful.

Re:sounds to me like that you are (0, Flamebait)

LucidBeast (601749) | about 4 years ago | (#33895284)

missing the point.

Re:sounds to me like that you are (3, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | about 4 years ago | (#33896040)

I don't think so. The main issue seems to be that of Android residing on multiple dissimilar handsets, the OS changes this necessitates, and the programming challenges to support same. Of course that's going to be tougher to program for than a closed single hardware platform. The upside is that an application that runs on a majority of Android handsets is more likely to be purchased on a majority of Android handsets.

My Android handset has a larger than average screen resolution, and a few widgets don't play nice with it. I'd rather have the hardware choice and deal with the small incompatibilities than have one company tell me to take their phone and love it.

Re:sounds to me like android is guilty of (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 4 years ago | (#33895392)

100+ versions? To make it easier they should just program to 99.99999999999.....+ versions.

More like half adding from handset makers... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33896052)

It's google's fault for not forcing handset makers to adhere to a set of guidelines or they cant call it android, droid, etc...

Google should have forced : handsets can be upgraded to the latest android version. Add on apps CAN NOT be required and must be able to be removed by the user. standard Android apps MUST NOT BE REMOVED.

google dropped the ball and now you have handset and tablet makers doing half assed jobs of it. they are utterly ruining the platform.

So? (5, Insightful)

RMH101 (636144) | about 4 years ago | (#33895004)

Seriously, this is getting as bad as Engadget with their phantom Android Fragmentation issue.
You have a basic hardware spec (number of buttons etc) laid out by the OHSA, you have processors of varying speeds and some have keyboards and better GPUs. The market can already limit what you see based on these requirements. App developers just need to think about the spec they want vs the number of handsets of that spec in the market. Hell, if your app's good enough, it'll drive the spec of the handset. It's just like what they have to do in the world of PC app development, made easier due to the rapid churn of handset specs as they get steadily faster and cheaper.
Android's not doing at all badly compared to Apple's iOS, is it?

Re:So? (4, Insightful)

revscat (35618) | about 4 years ago | (#33895156)

So?

So it means that you have a lower return on investment, given that your testing costs are higher.

Hell, if your app's good enough, it'll drive the spec of the handset.

This is both irrelevant and wishful thinking. App popularity does not change the amount of testing required to get it popular in the first place, nor would popularity reduce the number of configurations you must test against even were the spec to change.

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | about 4 years ago | (#33895270)

So how is this different to developing games/apps for the desktop (or, hell, laptop, tablet, netbook variants thereof), or every other phone OS other than iOS to date? Is this really a surprise to these people? If so they only have themselves to blame for going into the market blindly, as I'd have thought this would be self evident to anyone developing for an OS that's deployed to multiple hardware platforms.

Re:So? (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | about 4 years ago | (#33895374)

I assume that when you develop a game for the desktop, you develop it for the latest Windows version with some care over portability to the version prior to that and that's it. And you have only one type of input devices (keyboard plus mouse). You know that there anyway will be a big market of gamers using Win 7 with the latest generation of processors and graphic cards. I highly doubt that this variability compares to the one seen in the Android market.

Re:So? (1)

Rhaban (987410) | about 4 years ago | (#33895858)

I assume that when you develop a game for the desktop, you develop it for the latest Windows version with some care over portability to the version prior to that and that's it.

You'd ignore the windows XP market?

Re:So? (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about 4 years ago | (#33895954)

As far as I'm concerned, there want anything between XP and 7. Vista doesn't count.

Re:So? (4, Insightful)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 4 years ago | (#33895452)

it's different because apps cost $0.99 and don't have as large a potential consumer base. is $0.99 going to be profitable when you have to pay an army of testers overtime and have developers working feverishly to squash bugs for a year?

Re:So? (4, Informative)

afex (693734) | about 4 years ago | (#33895580)

it is not different, and we (android users) still have the same problem that PC gamers have: random video card glitches, this game doesn't work while i have program X open, game X performs better in SP3 compat mode, etc. I'm not for or against it, but it is absolutely an issue. One of the reasons i have moved 75% of my gaming to the console - just pop the disk in and get a polished experience.

Cost/Benefit (4, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 4 years ago | (#33895622)

So it means that you have a lower return on investment, given that your testing costs are higher.

Right - this should be a simple cost/benefit analysis.

"I want access to these additional six million customers and it's going to cost me an additional $4600 per year to test for them. Worth it or not?"

Sure, 'free' would be lovely, in some kind of dream world. But "I want to have these customers and I don't want to bother testing for them," just smacks of greed and/or stupidity. Perhaps the smart developers will seek to stand out by letting people know they've actually tested their software on the device the potential customer owns.

Is there some sort of contractual obligation that precludes the developers from saying, "sorry, we haven't tested our app on this $130 non-flashable off-brand 7-inch Android tablet that you got from the local bedding supply store on clearance?"

Re:So? (1)

maxume (22995) | about 4 years ago | (#33895626)

The ROI isn't that simple, if there are 50 million IOS platform devices and 2 Android versions that combine to cover 200 million devices, the ROI could be better on the Android side, even if there are 6 million other Android versions that you have to merrily ignore.

Re:So? (2, Interesting)

molnarcs (675885) | about 4 years ago | (#33895846)

To be successful on the Market, you need a) good ideas b) programming skills to implement them. There are lots of hugely popular applications on the Android Market that I haven't seen problems reported by users on any handset. Basically, this is the same as with other platforms - Windows, Linux, etc. Linux is a good example.

We have thousands of applications and libraries on Linux. They not only work across different versions of the OS, most of them work across different versions AND different architectures. Now if a programmer releases an app that works only on Ubuntu 9.04 and breaks on every other platform - that's shitty programming, plain and simple. At that point, the programmer can either improve his/her skills, give up on the Linux platform in general, or whine on a blog and get linked on Slashdot (seriously, WTF were the editors thinking?). Android is exactly the same. Except that if the programmer with the broken linux app would whine about fragmentation on his blog, most would ignore him, others would probably flame him to death.

Of course, now we have lots of developers coming from the closed iOS ecosystem, because Android is hot. They were used to developing for a single hardware + OS spec. Most of them get the job done. Some give up. Some throw a tantrum over fragmentation. I have obviously no problem with the first group. I don't have a problem with the second group either. The whiners piss me off, however. It's completely, utterly useless and stupid. Android won't change, and other developers already proved that programming for the platform should not be a problem - provided you have the necessary skills. So shut up and improve your skills or go away, just please don't whine. The Market is booming, if a few dozen programmers leave, that won't affect Android much. There are thousands of developers with the will and the talent to target Android.

Re:So? (3, Informative)

molnarcs (675885) | about 4 years ago | (#33895988)

Eventually I just RTFA, yeah yeah I know - and what I said above is not targeted at this particular developer. For those who didn't RTFA, TweetDeck's blogpost only mentions how proud they are that their app runs on over a hundred combinations of hardware and ROM versions. Their app is exactly the kind of example I had in mind for the developers who can do (vs. the devs who just whine).

Google dumped Apple into 3rd place (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895194)

"Android's not doing at all badly compared to Apple's iOS, is it?"

Google dumped Apple into 3rd place and is the top selling smartphone OS and it sales rate is accelerating at a tremendous rate.

These angry Apple fanboy in the media outbursts are all they can think of to deal with Google kicking their precious Apple's ass in the marketplace.

Re:Google dumped Apple into 3rd place (1, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | about 4 years ago | (#33895564)

Google dumped Apple into 3rd place and is the top selling smartphone OS and it sales rate is accelerating at a tremendous rate.

You have an interesting definition of the verb "sell". Apple makes over 50% of all the profit in the mobile handset world despite their tiny market share (which is currently about the same as Google's if you exclude iPod Touch and iPad). Google gives Android away for free, and carriers are doing the same with free or buy-one-get-one deals. Profit drives innovation, so we'll see where things stand in a few years. No one can afford to keep giving things away for free indefinitely, so when users start paying the true costs are they still going to prefer it?

Don't Cry Assclown (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895624)

No one is going to take your piece of shit iPhone away.

Re:Google dumped Apple into 3rd place (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | about 4 years ago | (#33895658)

The carriers aren't giving away shit for free. They are subsidizing the cost of the phone in exchange for a contractual obligation to buy their service for x amount of time, just like they do for every other phone, including the iPhone.

Re:Google dumped Apple into 3rd place (2, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 4 years ago | (#33895890)

If the 'you can't give stuff away and make a profit' argument held in reality Google would be bankrupt instead of one of the most profitable companies in the world. That 'free' OS? First and foremost it ships by default with a ton of Google apps installed, all of which generate advertising revenue and market information that Google uses to generate it's profit. Secondly, since a ridiculously large majority of people still use Google for their search it stands to reason that the more connected people are to the internet the more money Google makes, even without their apps. Google makes money off of android the same way it makes money off of search: collecting information about its users, and selling ad space more effectively than the competition.

As for the carriers... really? You really think that they just give away phones 'for free'? Here's what you should hear when you listen to those advertisements:

We'll give it to you for 'free'*

*Where 'free' is equal to $720 ($30 per month * 24 months).

Re:So? (4, Insightful)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | about 4 years ago | (#33895288)

Agreed.

I don't see how it can be an issue. Look how prolific development is for windows is, you have no guarantee what the hardware is yet that didn't seem to hinder development for Windows esp if you compare Windows to Apple.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895554)

Actually...a lot of Windows development lately (as in since Windows 95) has been making the OS capable of providing all the necessary hardware interfaces so that the software itself can access routines rather than program it directly.

If you go back to the DOS days, you'll see a lot of games and programs that have particular modes for certain hardware, and required special coding all the time. Civilization I, various Ultimas, even the old Moraffware games are some of the older ones I recall, but there's also the games from when 3D graphics acceleration was the hot thing.

Getting past that has been a driving force in software development, at least for games. Or haven't you heard of DirectX?

Of course, even today, you'll see a lot of compromises to make things work, like how say various game pads pretend to be a keyboard in order to work.

Re:So? (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | about 4 years ago | (#33895632)

Thanks yes I know of DirectX and I remember the days of DOS and picking out your sound card and you graphics card (even before 3d acceleration) joystick etc and even with that there were still a boat load of games both put out by big companies and some guy in his garage. You had to pick what you would and would not support and most all games would default to bare bones if needed, like internal speaker and generic EGA or VGA display and keyboard control.

Re:So? (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | about 4 years ago | (#33895662)

Oh and sorry to double reply but I just noticed the Moraffware example. I loved dungeons of the Unforgiven. Good memories.

Re:So? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895572)

Did you really just defend Windows? ... on Slashdot?

Re:So? (1)

Tordre (1447083) | about 4 years ago | (#33895628)

To me it seems it is not a hardware variance issue, it is more or the OS variants it would be like if you have to support all versions of OSX or having to support all versions of windows9X on ward, choosing to be compatible with all will force you to not take advantage of the latest OS features(to full effect), and choosing to limit which version you support will limit your potential user base, like choosing a android 2.0 cutoff when there are still phones running 1.X (and new ones being made on 1.X).

Comparing it to windows is not quite right, because Microsoft sets a cutoff point for os support where as such a cut-off point would be against the open source way.

These graphs showcase hardware which as i said is not the issue, and OS variants of the same version number which is also not an issue, the issue is the jumps between versions and the speed or availability of average Joe upgrades to the OS

Re:So? (2, Interesting)

pr0nbot (313417) | about 4 years ago | (#33895574)

App developers just need to think about the spec they want vs the number of handsets of that spec in the market.

This translates to: "in the fragmented Android market, you need to choose your fragment".

Or (if disparaging Engadget despite fundamentally agreeing with them makes you squeamish) perhaps this translation: "There is no such thing as the Android market, there is the Droid market, the Galaxy S market, the Desire market, etc."

How easy is it to get information about all the shards of the Android market and so make a decision about what to target? All the pie charts I've seen have wedges that just say "Android" or at best "Android 1.6, 2.0" etc.

Re:So? (4, Interesting)

jmichaelg (148257) | about 4 years ago | (#33895638)

You're missing a key point.

Back in the early days of DOS, the OS was relatively stable but the hardware on which it ran was all over the map. We wanted to port Crystal Quest from the Mac to the PC but punted when we saw that we had no way of knowing how many PCs there were that had both a mouse, sound hardware and a video card that could handle bitmap video. All of those features were standard on a Mac but were customizations on a PC. It wasn't until Windows 95 came out that Microsoft started dictating minimum hardware specs that all machines had to have and Microsoft wouldn't let the manufacturer say the PC could run Windows 95 until Microsoft had QA'd the box.

Android is still in the DOS days. Once Google gets around to learning the same lesson Microsoft learned (albeit slowly) and develops a QA test suite that they administer, the problem will only get worse.

Re:So? (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | about 4 years ago | (#33896022)

You have a basic hardware spec (number of buttons etc) laid out by the OHSA, you have processors of varying speeds and some have keyboards and better GPUs. The market can already limit what you see based on these requirements.

Your solution is to sell to less people ? Pissing off potential customers who bought into the Android hype but didn't spend enough money on their handset, brilliant bit of marketing there.

Hell, if your app's good enough, it'll drive the spec of the handset. It's just like what they have to do in the world of PC app development, made easier due to the rapid churn of handset specs as they get steadily faster and cheaper.

Aaand we're back in PC land : "don't worry people will just buy the hardware to accommodate us, the developer." I thought that attitude died along with PC gaming and Windows Vista.

The more things change... (4, Insightful)

cheddarlump (834186) | about 4 years ago | (#33895030)

It's interesting to me that this is the same problem facing PC's, where there are hundreds of different versions of open source OSes vs. Windows/OSX.

Re:The more things change... (3, Insightful)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | about 4 years ago | (#33895256)

It's interesting to me that this is the same problem facing PC's, where there are hundreds of different versions of open source OSes vs. Windows/OSX.

I believe you put Windows on the wrong side of that equation. The controlled platform is OSX. The wild-cards are Windows and Open Source OSes; much wider selection of hardware and much less control over OS tree / components / build.

How does this compare (1, Redundant)

Reilaos (1544173) | about 4 years ago | (#33895032)

How does this fragmentation difficulty compare to development for developing for PCs across a few OS variants and and effectively infinite configurations available for PCs?

Apple got it, then MS learned it the hard way (2, Insightful)

JoltinJoe77 (1199263) | about 4 years ago | (#33895036)

Apple by controlling the OS and hardware out of the starting gate had it right. Microsoft learned it the hard way after years of unsupportable carrier-specific hacks of their Windows Mobile OS, culminating in a much more rigidly defined Windows Mobile 7. Phones that are difficult to upgrade and that cannot run software that runs on other similar phones hurts brand loyalty. If Google wants to retain loyal customers in the mobile market, they are going to have to consolidate these variants and force a single, portable, upgradable OS like Apple and Microsoft are doing.

If Google wants to retain loyal customers (2, Insightful)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about 4 years ago | (#33895240)

It's too late.
I wanted an Android phone but with Motorola's iPhone-like ambitions and HTC's If-rooted-Reload-default-OS feature, I'd rather go for a poorly guarded jail (iPhone) than a WW2 concentration camp.

I tell people that Android is a failed experiment that proves that Carriers' and Manufacturers' greed will kill any open source advantages that Android could have brought.

Re:If Google wants to retain loyal customers (2, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#33895518)

*You* may think Android is a failed experiment, although I'd argue that 250K Android activations a day is a success:

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/10/04/google-approaching-quarter-million-android-activationsday/ [cnn.com]

Reality is somewhere between being idealistic and pragmatic. Carriers and Manufacturers may try to kill Android's advantages, but that's the beauty of Android. You can simply pick a different carrier or manufacturer. What do you do if you don't like who makes or handles the connectivity of your iPhone?

Re:If Google wants to retain loyal customers (2, Insightful)

energizer-bunny2 (1308043) | about 4 years ago | (#33895528)

I tell people that Android is a failed experiment that proves that Carriers' and Manufacturers' greed will kill any open source advantages that Android could have brought.

Then sir, you are a fool. How exactly is is a failed experiment? My phone seems to work just fine, I can find any application I want...and...I can replace my battery!

Re:If Google wants to retain loyal customers (-1, Troll)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about 4 years ago | (#33895882)

You must be an early adopter. All the new phones out there are all crippled.

Re:If Google wants to retain loyal customers (3, Informative)

pspahn (1175617) | about 4 years ago | (#33895562)

and HTC's If-rooted-Reload-default-OS feature,

That's funny, my rooted Evo, which I bought a few weeks after its launch, is still rooted and I am under no obligation to run any OTA updates offered. So yeah, I enjoy being able to use my phone as a wifi hotspot paired up with my netbook, along with any other feature that requires root.

failed experiment that proves that Carriers' and Manufacturers' greed will kill any open source advantages that Android could have brought.

Exactly what advantages? How is a phone with a variety of options any better or worse than a phone without those options? The advantages I find with my phone are that I was able to choose which phone I wanted, nothing more. I don't really care that I can go and look at the code and modify it to do whatever I want. I care that I have a choice between a variety of hardware vendors and carriers. I wanted 4g speeds, and I wanted a plan that suited how I use my phone. So for my monthly price, I get unlimited data at speeds far greater than any other phone, and I can share that unlimited data with other devices. This is win.

Re:If Google wants to retain loyal customers (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about 4 years ago | (#33895912)

I think it was a HTC Droid 2 that had the If-rooted-Reload-default-OS feature.

Re:If Google wants to retain loyal customers (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 4 years ago | (#33895800)

I've had my Android phone for three months now, and still haven't found a reason to root it. What's the point?

Re:Apple got it, then MS learned it the hard way (3, Insightful)

pspahn (1175617) | about 4 years ago | (#33895348)

If Google wants to retain loyal customers in the mobile market, they are going to have to consolidate these variants and force a single, portable, upgradable OS like Apple and Microsoft are doing.

I disagree. One of the selling points of an Android phone is that there are many options when it comes to what kind of phone you want. Let's assume you are correct, and future versions of Android are standardized in a way that prevents hardware vendors from offering a variety of devices. If I, as the consumer, need to get a new phone, I can either time it just right so that the hardware options I desire are available the moment my carrier contract is up, or I will have to wait until such is offered.

This is such a negative selling point for any type of iThing in my book. If I had needed a new phone several months before the current gen was released, I would either have to switch to something else, purchase the same phone I had previously, or go without a phone for several months. While it's possible I might just go without, it is not possible that I would fork out money for the same device I bought a couple years ago. This leaves me with switching to another phone as the best option, which is exactly what several people I know have done as they were looking to replace their iPhones several months prior to the launch of the current model.

Re:Apple got it, then MS learned it the hard way (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 4 years ago | (#33895504)

Phones that are difficult to upgrade and that cannot run software that runs on other similar phones hurts brand loyalty.

Which is funny since WM7 phones aren't backwards compatible software wise.

Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (4, Insightful)

pscottdv (676889) | about 4 years ago | (#33895050)

Programmers write software for a myriad of different versions of Windows running on thousands of different types of hardware without these QA issues. What is Android doing that causes this problem?

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895172)

Windows is more internally standardized?

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (1, Funny)

Gerald (9696) | about 4 years ago | (#33895346)

Windows is more internally standardized?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA [microsoft.com] .

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (1)

alen (225700) | about 4 years ago | (#33895254)

every PC running Windows has a keyboard and mouse. there are cool keyboards out there with some cool shortcuts and functionality but that is handled by their drivers. the basic input is the same.

on Android you have hundreds of different devices with different input mechanisms. some have touch, some keyboard. and then there are different touch screens to support multi touch and other forms of input and different gestures. i use an iphone, but i hear there is something called swype out there that a lot of handsets have.

  Apple has one way to input data into an iphone. which is easier to QA and debug? how do you write an app with a small footprint which may have to account for 10-20 different kinds of input? how do you design a UI for it?

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (4, Insightful)

molnarcs (675885) | about 4 years ago | (#33895382)

Programmers write software for a myriad of different versions of Windows running on thousands of different types of hardware without these QA issues. What is Android doing that causes this problem?

As you probably suspect... nothing. There are thousands of useful apps working on all handsets without problems. I have about 30 installed on my Nexus One, carefully read the user reviews for each on AppBrain, and there is a reason most of these have 4.5+ stars... In other words, there are programmers who can do, and programmers who can whine on their blog. What I don't understand is why Slashdot links to random whining programmer to inflate the issue of fragmentation. Actually, you're right on target with the windows analogy. There are shitty programmers whose apps suffer due to hardware/platform (win7/vista/xp) differences, and then there are apps that work fine across all versions of the OS/hw.

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 years ago | (#33895384)

Windows is more centralized. BSD dissipated and basically died due to fragmentation. Linux, due to the GPL, seems to be treading a middle ground - with enough work most apps can be compiled for any distro, but to be useful to most people, each distro must have a maintainer for each application. And the end user is exposed to a mish-mash of widget sets, file dialogs, printer configurations, etc... which some find annoying.

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895922)

Windows is more centralized. BSD dissipated and basically died due to fragmentation.

Unix is the most diverse OS ecosystem there is, and yet it's trivially simple to write an application that will run on any of them. If you write an application for Linux, if you haven't been a total idiot, that same application will compile and run on BSD, OS X, Solaris, etc. I once found source code for a program from the late 70s and compiled and ran it on a Linux distro from ~2005.

Unix is the ultimate proof that "fragmentation" is not a problem so long as your system is simple and has well defined standards.

insert MS FUD © (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895948)

"BSD dissipated and basically died due to fragmentation"

"Linux, due to the GPL, seems to be treading a middle ground"

"the end user is exposed to a mish-mash of widget sets, file dialogs, printer configurations"

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895456)

You see, cell phones are magical.

On desktops, multiple OS versions and enormous variations in hardware aren't a significant problem. But on cell phones this an insurmountable problem that can only be solved by locking down everything possible, down to one OS, one hardware manufacturer, and one carrier if at all possible.

On desktops, a total lack of sandboxing or any filesystem security to speak of is not a significant problem as long as you have anti-virus and keep your browser up to date. But on cell phones any hint that an application can access shared data is a gaping hole through which your entire life will be stolen by hackers. The only solution is to disallow any IPC or shared data, no matter how useful it would be, and let experts vet all applications for us.

On desktops, the ability to install any software you want is a healthy competition that leads developers to constantly innovate to keep up with the competition. But on cell phones the ability to install any software is a flaw, where developers can add new features that only serve to confuse users and create a convoluted experience that people can't hope to comprehend. The only solution is to let the corporations decide for us what we can and can't install.

Why are cell phones different than desktops? It must be magic.

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (4, Insightful)

jorenko (238937) | about 4 years ago | (#33895614)

The way I see it, the issue is OS rev fragmentation, moreso than hardware. Imagine if Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP all came out 6 months apart, with Vista slated to launch next month and 7 in the spring, and 50% of computers shipping today had 98 installed, and no support for higher versions.

Related is the carriers' insistence on adding a layer on top of android to make it their own, which just delays the release, meaning by the time they're done the next OS version is out.

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895630)

It isn't a problem, actually.

I've got a multi-hundred-thousand-download Android app out there, have not tested it on a myriad of devices (ok, two of them if you must know), and reports of issues, over the last two years, amount to...three.

Re:Why More Difficult Than Desktop Apps? (1)

gutnor (872759) | about 4 years ago | (#33895842)

What do you mean without QA issues ?? There is tons of QA issues but they deal with it, if that's what you mean.
One of the way they deal with it is to limit the scope by specifying min spec. Another way of dealing with it is to charge a lot more for a PC app than for a mobile app.

Well, TFA says that they can deal with it aswell, and anyway they did deal with it in the days of WinME and J2ME.

I guess it is still regrettable that so early in the development of Android there is already so much fragmentation when the market leader (in term of $ spent buying apps) is not afflicted by the same problem.

PCs were fragmented since ever (2, Interesting)

NoZart (961808) | about 4 years ago | (#33895084)

I understand that platforms like consoles and the iCool stuff benefit from the unified platform, but why is this SUCH a big issue? Computers were always fragmented and no two machines were the same in my vicinity, yet still there was working software everywhere - sometimes even crossing OS-borders (playing q3 between different windows and linux versions was never a problem).

I am not a coder, so could someone explain to me why all of a sudden diversity is such a problem?

Re:PCs were fragmented since ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895190)

I can't imagine how it could be, when most Android stuff is running in a Java VM on top of the Linux kernel. Everything should be abstracted even more than on a normal Linux or Windows system.

Re:PCs were fragmented since ever (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | about 4 years ago | (#33895302)

But at least you had ONE version of the OS and the user could upgrade whenever he/she wanted.

If your Android phone came with v1.6 and you want to install Android OS v2.2, you have to wiat for the manufacture of your Android phone to publish *its* version of Android OS v2.2.

Oh, your phone is 2+ years old, too bad. The manufacturer doesn't see $$ in helping you.

Re:PCs were fragmented since ever (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about 4 years ago | (#33895428)

Diversity is *always* a problem, but its not an insurmountable obstacle. It means you need to run the same tests on any likely platform. The more of these platforms there are, the more of a pain it is, and of course, the more money and time it takes to do it that comes out of the bottom line.

Having said that, we've gotten rather good at testing multiple platforms in software design. Once you are actually forced to stand up a professional platform QA team, its not too difficult to scale their activities. Often, the worst part of it is actually obtaining good examples of the platforms from the vendors in cases where they are not in general release.

Re:PCs were fragmented since ever (1)

henrywasserman (608441) | about 4 years ago | (#33895468)

Part of it is making sure you have compatible versions of software on each device. Part of it is that different software drivers are required for different hardware devices. When different software drivers are introduced, they have a subtle tendency to interact with the software in evil ways. Things like buttons stop working or software starts crashing. Basically with unexpected software driver changes you get unexpected software results in the application that uses the drivers.

Mainly the five most recent releases (5, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | about 4 years ago | (#33895088)

2.2, 2.1 update 1, 2.1, something called 020201 (2.0?) and 1.6 account for almost all of the users. The remainder are custom ROMs you're not really obliged to support. Not that having five major releases operating in the wild is much better, mind.

Re:Mainly the five most recent releases (2, Informative)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about 4 years ago | (#33895248)

But handset manufacturers do not distribute vanilla versions of each OS. Sometimes the OS varies between different handsets from the same manufacturer running the same OS version.

Re:Mainly the five most recent releases (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895478)

They certainly ought to, and leave their custom stuff as an add-on package.

Re:Mainly the five most recent releases (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895682)

Those are just UI tunings.

NONE of the manufacturers goes mess and removing/altering android.* apis. That's a freaking fact.

Re:Mainly the five most recent releases (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | about 4 years ago | (#33895524)

And considering most of those custom ROMs are built on top of official build versions, they're almost irrelevant.

BS (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895182)

As an AC developer, I call BS - have you looked at the "versions" of Android they identified? "Baked Snack 1.0 Epic" or
"5.0 Welcome to Prisneyland, Fish"? Most of the versions (I dont see the numbers, but I would guess about 80%+ from the chart) are 2.2, 2.1, and 1.6.

If you have a custom android deployment on the phone, then you may have problems... but don't come whining to me about how you Baked Snack build doesn't support Angry Bird!

Re:BS (4, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | about 4 years ago | (#33895364)

Not to mention most of the custom builds are just vanilla builds with the UI tweaked, and where they do something different it's usually to add base functionality rather than removing it, so I'd be surprised if an app that was tested and working on the standard build failed to work on a custom ROM.

Oh, so its like OpenGL/DirectX (5, Insightful)

RyanFenton (230700) | about 4 years ago | (#33895210)

So, you've got to query for functionality, design to fallback in some cases for the features you work with/around, then design tests to make sure it works in the cases you design for. From that, you budget your time, allocate test machines/staff, and ballpark your costs.

Doesn't sound too unusual - the more features you implement, the more combined testing you have to do for edge cases.

It's just like with video cards and graphics programming - you design for a limited subset of possible cards, have code to query the cards capabilities, have fallback code for some cards, then test against a good range of cards. Blaming card manufacturers at large for their variety of design isn't productive - they're what makes the market you have the chance to code for.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Oh, so its like OpenGL/DirectX (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | about 4 years ago | (#33895754)

Or, you could just scrap the majority of this "probing for feature X, running version Y" crap and just develop for a platform with (for the most part) a common set of features. I'd imagine most developers would pick the route of least resistance (not to mention the platform with a wider audience). This may not bode well with the Fandoid crowd, but the truth is the truth...

Android Dev (5, Interesting)

tobes (302057) | about 4 years ago | (#33895356)

As I say in the original post (http://blog.tweetdeck.com/android-ecosystem [tweetdeck.com] ), it's great that our app can run on so many different devices. It has been a bit more work supporting all the custom ROMs and hardware specs, but there are more difficult platforms to develop for.

One REALLY nice thing about developing for Android was that we could have a beta period that involved 36k users. Being able to distribute the APK outside the Market was a real blessing. It's much harder to test iPhone software before submitting it to Apple.

Re:Android Dev (4, Insightful)

codepunk (167897) | about 4 years ago | (#33895588)

The flip side to that is it takes a whole lot less testing to hit the targets on the iphone / ipod / ipad. In fact a couple of my apps did not require any modification when the ipad was released it just ran.

Re:Android Dev (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895770)

Bollox is it. There are only 5 OS levels. Unlike iOS, there are no little tweaks, patches and bug fixes leaking out.

MSX (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895414)

MSX.

That is all.

US Cellular sells naked android 2.1 (2, Insightful)

osssmkatz (734824) | about 4 years ago | (#33895418)

I just want to thank US Cellular. They sell one phone with naked android, and one phone with HTC Sense. Both are running the Android 2.1, which is almost up to date. (Only the Nexus one and some tablets have 2.2).

This is the key, I think: ship the Google code and only the google code, and ship an up to date OS.

Many devices are still running 1.6 and some 1.5. This is unacceptable. Blackberry is no better. They sell their OS upgrades as a feature with their phones. Not OK.

--Sam

Re:US Cellular sells naked android 2.1 (5, Informative)

bem (1977) | about 4 years ago | (#33895576)

(Only the Nexus one and some tablets have 2.2).

Wrong. Droid, Droid 2, Droid X from Motorola are all on 2.2.

HTC has several 2.2 Phones (Incredible, Evo 4G, Desire)

Your information is dated.

Re:US Cellular sells naked android 2.1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895600)

What? There's more phones than that running 2.2.

If you don't care if it's "naked" or not, most HTC phones are running 2.2, although you have to deal with Sense (which is replaceable).

If you do care if its naked, there's the G2.

Re:US Cellular sells naked android 2.1 (1)

GweeDo (127172) | about 4 years ago | (#33895678)

There are a lot of phones other than the N1 with official releases of Android 2.2:
- Droid 1
- Droid X
- Droid 2
- HTC Incredible (and its varients)
- HTC Evo
Just to name a few...

Non-Issue (1)

Kyru (836008) | about 4 years ago | (#33895424)

This is completely a non-issue, the majority of people are on the main builds and you can specify in your program what firmware and hardware it requires so that it doesn't show up for people that can't run it. I'm not too worried about developing for the 3 people running Bub's AOSP Magic "Original" v 0.3.3. Fragmentation is a boogie-man and nothing more.

fragmented hardware platform ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895472)

Was the above dictated in Redmond. One the one hand no-one is using Android, on the other the market is fragmenting ;) Alternatively, the more hardware sold the more revenue generated. After all the end-user can only use the obe handset at the same time and the developers er .. develop for the one Android version at a time. Why don't we see the same kind of faulty logic applied to the Microsoft universe? ©

Re:fragmented hardware platform ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895822)

Um, the same "faulty logic" is applied to MS very freely around here. Or don't you bother to read the daily MS hate articles around here and the flow of FUD that follows every single one?

Either you have your head in the sand or you're being a troll.

So it must be crap software then (2, Insightful)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | about 4 years ago | (#33895534)

TweetDeck for the iPhone crashes way too often (about once a day on averahge), and for that there are only a handful of different versions. So TweetDeck for Android must be real garbage.

Wait a sec... (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | about 4 years ago | (#33895568)

Since when were dozens of hacked ROM's "different versions of Android?"

Re:Wait a sec... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33896036)

@mdm-adph different ROMs, different libraries, different functions, different bugs, different hardware. Think Different.

I am just curious. (3, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | about 4 years ago | (#33895666)

As a customer: Does Fragmentation mean that i actually have a choice what i buy?

Re:I am just curious. (1)

zill (1690130) | about 4 years ago | (#33895798)

No, it means it's time to run Disk Defragmenter.

Contradictory Statement (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | about 4 years ago | (#33895668)

Sounds like there needs to be a more Standardized version of Open-Source

That's not our experience (1)

martin-k (99343) | about 4 years ago | (#33895768)

We are currently porting SoftMaker Office to Android, and we are not experiencing any extraordinary issues that weren't present when we developed for Windows Mobile. So there are different screen resolutions, different Android OS versions, phones and tablets and netbooks, but a well-designed application should be able to handle that.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar (2, Interesting)

gklinger (571901) | about 4 years ago | (#33895830)

In regards to the unending Android vs. iPhone debate, this story made me think of Eric S. Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar [catb.org] . As a long time user and proponent of open systems I surprised myself when I realized that I while I'd rather my computers be bazaar, I prefer my phone to be a little more cathedral. I wonder how many others are comfortably embracing this dichotomy?

The difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33895956)

A user with a PC can add ram, change video cards, and upgrade CPU's to meet the requirements for a application. Users of phones locked into contracts are stuck with what they have until they can buy another phone. Also the performance levels between low end PC's and high end PC's are not as bad as with low end phones vs top model phones. Almost any app created on a PC is going to run because the hardware has the power to run a full OS plus many apps at the same time. Lots of room to work with. Low end phones that have just enough power to run the OS present problems for apps that demand more. The available features also present a problem. If something is in 2.2 but not in 2.0 the app isn't going to work. On a PC they all have the same abilies for the most part. On the OS end unless you design your app to only make use of a feature in vista or windows 7 and I can't think of anything that does it's going to work on XP too. Even if designed only for windows 7 HP, toshiba, Dell don't lock your PC from using a new OS. The customizations on android by cell companies also present a problem. PC makers don't replace the windows GUI for there own. A developer does not have to work with a custom Dell GUI or custom HP GUI. The machines that do have a custom GUI are specialized task machines that are not part of the picture like manufacturing tool machines. OS upgrades in the windows world are 3 years apart as well. It's easy to list a apple app as being for iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 only. Or iOS 4 only. For android phones a developers best bet is to list serving like works on driod phones with android 2.2. Might work on others and might not. Even the most power phone is a small % of the power of a low end PC. Android is a fail and you can blame phone companies for it. And popularity has nothing to do with if a product is a win or fail. Windows is a fail to but is on 90% of PC's. Android sells well it's open which is a win but it's also a fail with fragmentation. Those that dismiss the issue saying it's not a problem are lying to themselves.

The Bigger Problem . . . (2, Insightful)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | about 4 years ago | (#33895970)

. . . is that the implementations are not completely vetted. This was a problem with Windows Mobile 5.x and 6.x. Some OEMs did not implement everything (e.g., DirectShow), and apps that used certain hardware such as the camera would unpredictably fail. It is one thing to have a bug in your app and quite another to have a bug in the platform your app depends upon. Until you determine for certain that it is not your fault, a.k.a. proving the negative, you catch all the flack. Good luck with that.

buh-bye TweetDeck (1)

dmorelli (615543) | about 4 years ago | (#33896104)

Is this what happens when the shock sets in that there's no Steve to guide everything? Tweetdeck devs: If this kitchen's too hot, you may be excused. More room for developers who can handle it.

The argument for quality (1)

BurtCrep (601313) | about 4 years ago | (#33896114)

From a purely functional perspective, this makes for better quality software in the end. More versions mean more unforeseen situations mean more testing mean in the end more bugs found and quashed.

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