Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Google Trying New Strategy to Fix Fragmentation

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the lets-stay-together dept.

Android 355

CWmike writes "Google announced a new version of Android this week with some impressive new features, but it's unclear if it's done enough to solve a problem that has dogged its mobile OS: fragmentation. Even as it announced the imminent launch of Android 4.1, or Jelly Bean, the majority of users are still running Gingerbread, which is three major releases behind. According to Google's own figures, just 7 percent are running the current version, Ice Cream Sandwich, which launched last October. That means apps that tap into the latest innovations in the OS aren't available to most Android users. It also means developers, the lifeblood of the platform, are forced to test their apps across multiple devices and multiple versions of the OS. So when Google's Hugo Barra announced a Platform Developer Kit during the opening keynote at I/O this week, the news was greeted with applause. The PDK will provide Android phone makers with a preview version of upcoming Android releases, making it easier for them to get the latest software in their new phones. But is the PDK enough to secure for developers the single user experience for big numbers of Android users that developers crave? In a 'fireside chat' with the Android team, the packed house of developers had more questions about OS fragmentation than Google had answers."

cancel ×

355 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

How about... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510101)

...enabling users to upgrade the devices themselves? And actually forcing all carriers to open source everything?

Re:How about... (3)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510153)

Also how about virtual machines for testing for all those, with all known display sizes as easy-to-configure test options and atomatic generation of binaries for each version.

My phone is 9 months old, and has Android 2.3. It came with 2.2. It hasn't auto-upgraded yet.

Re:How about... (4, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510223)

Also how about virtual machines for testing for all those, with all known display sizes as easy-to-configure test options and atomatic generation of binaries for each version.

You mean this one? http://developer.android.com/tools/devices/emulator.html [android.com] AVD makes it pretty simple to set up most configurations.

Likewise Eclipse makes it simple enough to target any OS version. The problem is if you use and ICS-specifc function, it won't work on devices with earlier versions of Android. As a result, most of us design/target 2.2 and ignore all the recent cool stuff.

Re:How about... (2)

Verunks (1000826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510437)

the emulator is not perfect though, they only recently added multi touch support which is something that they should have done from the beginning

Re:How about... (1, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510539)

Somebody offers a real hardware testing framework where you can test your app on a variety of equipment as a rental.

Re:How about... (2)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510627)

You should check out the support libraries [android.com] , and ActionBarSherlock. There are backports of the most important ICS APIs so you can still use them. I use an app that feels ICS native but it still runs on older devices.

Re:How about... (0)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510421)

You're talking about the Android Device Emulator that you can configure and setup to your hearts content? The one they've had for years now?

Re:How about... (3, Insightful)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510157)

I would say that changing the way that Android works would be better: Update system will by default upgrade everything, instead of just apps. OEMs using Android will be forced to assume that the device will upgrade itself, and that it has a system that will brick & replace menu systems if they don't work.

Carriers flossing won't do anything, it will still involve a lot of thinkering and rooting to get past their restrictions.

Re:How about... (4, Informative)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510335)

Hardware vendors, not carriers. That's the one thing Apple did right - cut one useless middleman out of the loop, the carriers. It's the carriers' modifications and general dickery that delays or prevents updates even further.

Re:How about... (5, Insightful)

cmdrbuzz (681767) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510399)

Problem is that the you are not (usually) the hardware manufacture's customer. The carrier is and from a hardware manufacture's point of view, why should they spend any money on getting a new version of the OS onto an already sold and accounted for phone?
It won't make them any more money, and might even help loose money in both the costs of getting the OS up and running, testing it and supporting it, and also if you (the end user) has the new OS on the existing phone, where is the incentive to buy a new phone with the new OS?

Not saying its right, but it seems to be the way it works right now.

Re:How about... (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510487)

The fact that the carriers are the hardware manufacturers customers is a separate problem. It should be consumers. If I ran the word (and I really think I should), things would be different. It would be illegal to have phone contracts longer than 2 months. You could sell a subscriber a phone, but it would be a separate cost, and you must support phones you don't sell. Let consumers decide the best products.

Re:How about... (3, Informative)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510515)

Or, you could leave America!

Re:How about... (3, Interesting)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510567)

You don't need to rule the world, just the U.S.

In Europe, everything is GSM and folks can buy new phone with no contract willi-nilli, just swap in their SIM card and off they go.

Re:How about... (0)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510571)

Yeah, but why set your sights so low.

The world you want is here today, in UK at least (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510587)

I don't know where you are, but here in the UK it's easy to buy basically any smartphone or tablet device of any level, from the basic entry-level gear up to the latest Galaxy or iPhone model, directly and with all the usual consumer protection laws applicable. Then you can get a SIM-only package, on a rolling monthly contract without any long-term tie-in, from any of the major phone networks to get the voice and/or data connectivity.

Most people don't do this, because it would force them to confront the real cost of buying that shiny new smartphone instead of mentally writing it off as part of a monthly credit agreement^W^Wcalling plan, where both the cost and the interest rate they're effectively paying for the device are mixed in with the flate rate they're paying for the network anyway. But as with most credit-like agreements, if you have the money up-front and do the maths, it's almost always cheaper over the lifetime of the deal to buy your own device, and of course it gives you a lot more flexibility to change your connectivity package mid-term as better deals become available in a highly competitive market.

I'm always slightly surprised that the usual rules we have here for advertising credit agreements (making it clear that you're tied into paying a certain interest rate, described in a standardised way) haven't been applied to the mobile phone market. If the carriers were forced to describe how much their calling plan is really costing in an easily comparable format, and to show the price of the equivalent up-front purchase and separate connectivity, I suspect the market would shift rather sharply in the average consumer's favour.

Re:How about... (4, Informative)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510675)

I definitely think the carrier is a bigger problem than the hardware maker for me. Because I have an EVO 3D on Sprint in the US. And the EVO 3D is running Ice Cream Sandwich for everybody all over the world except Sprint users.

Re:How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510165)

You see, that's the problem. Google is a business. They keep secrets. Most of their offerings are deliberately constructed as online services. And Google acknowledges that others want to keep secrets. Android is a tool. It's free for a purpose, not because Google thinks that free software is the right thing to do. But Stallman is right, and these situations are where it shows.

Re:How about... (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510297)

You see, that's the problem. Google is a business. They keep secrets. Most of their offerings are deliberately constructed as online services. And Google acknowledges that others want to keep secrets. Android is a tool. It's free for a purpose, not because Google thinks that free software is the right thing to do. But Stallman is right, and these situations are where it shows.

I don't follow your argument - why does "keeping secrets" help online services - surely publishing interfaces so anyone can use the services from any paltform would make sense. Also how does this "keeping secrets" lead to fragmentation? You fins as many people running old versions of linux (non secret) or Windows (completely secret) as Android (some parts secret).

Re:How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510441)

Building something as an online services helps keep the inner workings secret. Those never leave the server, the user just gets the results. That's why there is a modified version of the GPLv3 called "Affero General Public License v3" which requires that source is made available if the software is licensed for use in a software-as-a-service scenario. Google does things online that could just as well be performed offline, just to keep the code to themselves (I know, unsubstantiated bold claim, but I'm not going to go into the off-topic details.)

The main hindrances to user-upgradeable software on phones are the lack of information about the system components and proprietary drivers. Google had a chance to establish an open platform, but they didn't bother and provided free tools to create locked-down phones instead, and not just in the "no root" sense. PCs are different because they are built with "reflection" in mind: System software can run on a PC and figure out what it is that it's running on, without needing to be told at compile time. You can boot just about any PC from the same Linux live CD. This isn't possible with Android, due to architectural choices that Google failed to make or decided against.

Re:How about... (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510177)

The carriers are only part of the issue. The Manufacturer has to supply the carriers with a ROM, it's up to the carriers to them load their bloatware and push that ROM.

Re:How about... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510255)

Don't forget that a good chunk of the bloatware is added by the manufacturer (Sense, TouchWiz, Blur). Then the carrier gets involved and either puts in (or has the manufacturer put in) all the other stuff. My current Verizon Droid 3 has: Blur, Kindle, Backup Assistant, Blockbuster, Citrix, City ID, GoTo Meeting, MotoPrint, My Accounts, My Verizon Mobile, NFL Mobile, Quick Office, Skype Mobile, Slacker Radio, VCAST Media Manager, VCAST Music, VCAST Tones, VCAST Videos, VZ Navigator, ZumoCast. Those are just the ones that I can find in a quick check. There are probably more. I don't want any of those. And none of them can be uninstalled (without rooting the phone).

The manufacturers and carriers would never go for it, but I'd like to see them agree to provide a AOSP + GApps build for the phones once they decide to stop updating it. The main reason would be so that the proper hardware drivers are there. For example, with my Droid 3, I can't really run something like Cyanogen because they don't have the camera working right. If the proper manufacturer drivers were available in a native Android build, it would "just work". But, it would work better than the phone was initially shipped so the manufacturers and carriers would balk at that.

Re:How about... (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510425)

And that's why I bought a nexus....sadly it's probably the last time a nexus will be on verizon.

Open source the interfaces anyway (4, Insightful)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510211)

I don't know if open sourcing everything is necessary.

If SONY wants their experia UI, HTC wants their Sense, Samsung wants whatever theirs is called, then I'd be fine with them keeping that locked up as tight as they want.

But when they add a piece of hardware that is not familiar from other devices, open up the interface to that hardware.

Right now I could put CyanogenMod on mine, but the FM radio wouldn't work, the camera wouldn't work, and mobile data wouldn't work. Pass.
But that's not the CyanogenMod devs fault - they have to work with what's available, and the stock Android rom doesn't know what to do with the hardware there either.
If only the manufacturer opened up the interfaces, then those devs could easily build bridge software.

As it is, I opted to go with another rom that's based on the manufacturer's official rom binaries. That's not gonna fly for getting ICS or JB on there, though.

That said, I'm happy with it as it is - some setcpu and link2sd sprinkled on top and off it goes. It'll never be a Galaxy SIII - but then, a Galaxy SII will never be a Galaxy SIII either.

Re:How about... (3, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510227)

A thousand times this. I cannot blame Google for these fragmentation problems when it's pretty clear that the carriers are deliberately holding back the newest OS updates to force people to purchase new hardware, not to mention the tons of crapware most of the carriers insist on shoving into every corner of every Android device.

Well, I can blame Google for not doing more to stop the carriers from playing those games, but I doubt it would do any good, as that level of deference seems to be reserved for Apple.

Google should just start making plans to jump into the telecom space as a service provider, as they seem to be exploring with Google Fiber on the ISP front, but I doubt that will happen. I mean, how fast would Google end up testifying before Congress again before they even tried? "We've gotta stop this 'free, ad-driven' bullshit at all costs! It's goddamned communism!!! Buy the new iPhone, the official smartphone of U.S. Congress!! (TM)"

Re:How about... (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510579)

Most devices lack the ROM/RAM to run releases two higher than what they were shipped with. The manuf provides the next size up of memory from what was needed for the release current at time of shipment, and there is no way to upgrade the hardware of a phone after it is built.

Personally, I think fragmentation is a red herring. It really is not difficult to support different resolutions, and stuff, and Android provides hooks to do it. If your app really needs the latest performance, then users with older phones can't run it anyway. There is also a big enough market for apps in each of the last four versions - and its not like apps have millions of lines of version specific code. Loads of people can write once and run on IPhone and Symbian. Presumably anyone who cant manage to support two versions of Android is stupid or incompetent.

However, I totally back AngryDeuce in that the APIs to hardware should be open so CyanogenMod (etc) can be installed by those of us that like it.

For those who are too young to remember - in the early days of the PC XT and AT, there were loads of "almost" compatible products, and you had to ask your vendor "Is it IBM compatible?" at the point of sale if you actually wanted software to run on you new machine. We need GSMArena, techRadar etc to have in huge letters "NOT CyanogenMod compatible" at the top of each review for things that aren't. That would be a good start.

Re:How about... (3, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510671)

Presumably anyone who cant manage to support two versions of Android is stupid or incompetent.

I think the is the crux of the problem: is it that thousands and thousands of developers are all stupid or incompetent, or is it that Google has not provided an ecosystem that makes it financially worth it to make things work perfectly, debug, test, answer support questions, etc., for large numbers of versions and devices?

The iPhone is a whole different beast. There have been 5 total models since its initial release, and 5 versions of the OS. Over 80% of all iPhone users are on the latest OS. The iPhone 3GS, released about 3 years ago, runs the current OS and will be upgradable to the next one. That leaves the original iPhone, and the iPhone 3G (which many had complaints about its upgradability) as the only orphaned iPhones. That's one side of the equation. On the other side is an app marketplace which outsells Android by a significant margin despite a smaller installed base, and which is well-curated with a clear path from development to release to sales. That yields a dramatically better return on investment, and is (I think) the reason developers are less willing to support the latest (or multiple) Android versions.

Re:How about... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510265)

Exactly. There's no reason why my Samsung Captivate Glide should be stuck on Gingerbread.

Similarly, there are people out there with a phone that is on one carrier and has X release of Android while the EXACT same phone on another carrier has the newer Y release of Android.

Re:How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510315)

Re:How about... (3, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510333)

Agreed. I have a Motorola Triumph, and while I can download hacked versions of ICS (do want), a proper / supported version seems unlikely.

The way I figure it, from the cellphone manufacturer's point of view, offering an upgrade to the latest version of Android may not be in their best interests: in doing so, they are missing out on a chance to up-sell you on a newer model. It's that brain-damaged style of thinking that infects some sectors of the global economy, and holds the rest of the human race back.

Re:How about... (1, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510511)

It's that brain-damaged style of thinking that infects some sectors of the global economy, and holds the rest of the human race back.

No, the brain-damaged style of thinking that is holding the human race back is exemplified by the fact that you claim to care about upgrades but you would buy a device without knowing if you will be able to upgrade ahead of time. You're not thinking ahead and you're blaming others for your problems.

Re:How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510549)

Not sure google could force them to open source stuff. If they could change their license, it'd probably be the opposite effect, it'd mean that the manufacturers are more likely to stick with the current versions they don't have to do that with and possibly update it for themselves. i.e. keep older versions around and deeper fragmentation from the vendor specific updates.

I'd also suspect that the vast majority of handset users wouldn't update anyway, the slashdot crowd maybe willing and able to do so, but 80% of the people I know I would suspect would be unlikely to update absent something really compelling. Those impacted by the bling factor, that actually comes from having the shiny new handset, not the shiny new software.

Best Quote Ever (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510115)

"My penis is very indecisive towards vaginas. First it wants in, then it wants out, then it wants in, then it wants out." Ford Prefect, to Trillian The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - TDonk

Names have power. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510133)

If Google want to stop Android 'fragmenting', they need to apply some sort of 'compliance' to the Android name. If it's not running Android stock (no crap UI customisations, no carrier bloatware etc), then don't let it be called Android or mention the name in their advertising.

Also, change the name licensing conditions so OEM's and carriers can't sit on an O/S update for no sensible reason (real hardware limitations over the course of the life being a legit exception).

Re:Names have power. (2, Insightful)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510199)

You're an idiot that has failed to understand the point of Android. Google does have certain mandates to let you Google-certify a device, that is load the Android Market (Google Play) and apps (Gmail, etc.) onto it. If you don't want Google certification you can still run Android and do whatever you want with it, but even then the Google mandates are more to ensure quality rather than consistency.

Google's ethos is that they want people to innovate and do things differently. Google APPROVES of the custom-UI's like Sense and TouchWiz and according to the guy who actually designed ICS [gizmodo.co.uk]

That’s actually one of the things that I feel really strongly about: the idea that we should require as little as possible, because I want to have as much innovation as possible out there. For example, two years ago there was a Chinese company that was able to release an Android device that didn’t have any buttons at all. Not just on-screen soft-key buttons like we have in Ice Cream Sandwich and now Jelly Bean, not just capacitive buttons, not just not-physical buttons, but no buttons at all! And it supported all of the Android functionality — homescreen, back, etc. — by using gestures, like of like what we did with WebOS. And it was great, because that was compatible with Android, because our requirements are so loose that people can innovate that way.

Less requirements means more innovation and more diversification. Otherwise you just end up with 5 phones that are all the same.

Yes, this comes at a cost - the Changes to Android's system need to be ported over to the various custom skins and that takes time, but that's what Google is focusing on now rather than just giving up and making everyone do the same thing.

Re:Names have power. (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510477)

This would make sense if the phone makers and carriers had any history of innovation. The reason Apple was able to totally disrupt the market is because nobody was really trying anything. Now, with Android being wide open, the carriers lock the phones down and pre-load crapware like Blockbuster and Nascar apps.

Carriers want to sell $3 ringtones and $0.25 text messages. In their view (which extends to the end of the current quarter), disrupting their current business is only harmful to their bottom line.

Re:Names have power. (4, Insightful)

kikito (971480) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510609)

If you begin with "you are an idiot", you have already lost the argument.

Re:Names have power. (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510275)

Except for the fact that most phones don't really advertise Android. Android really only has clout in the geek-sphere. To many Android = Droid. Heck, AT&T's first Android phone the Backflip didn't even say it ran Android on any of the store displays! MotoBlur, yes. Android? No.

Re:Names have power. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510433)

And MotoBlur made the phone run craptacular... Embarassing for a phone with quite a bit of potential.

Make phones like laptops (4, Interesting)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510145)

My laptop was a midrange one purchased in 2008.
It runs WinXP to Win8 (tried the DP) flawlessly, only RAM was upgraded to 4GB
Why cant phones have a similar level of stardardisation/compatibility across generations?
I should just be able to load a version of Android/Windows phone/Symbian onto a memory card, pop it into my phone and install it like I do on a PC

Re:Make phones like laptops (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510173)

Why cant phones have a similar level of stardardisation/compatibility across generations?

I can think of a couple reasons. First, there's no standard for a bootloader or fallback input and output methods on ARM the way there is on x86 (BIOS bootloader, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, VESA video). Second, phones emit a radio frequency signal, and the radio software has to be approved by multiple national radio regulators.

Re:Make phones like laptops (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510193)

Thats not the core. The core is that it would require the manifacturers to provide drivers to multiple devices, most of them refuse to give out drivers for anything else than the first batch of devices, or demand stuff max compitablity is with whatever old backport CentOS is running.

Re:Make phones like laptops (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510195)

The most important reason is you'd riot if your laptop couldn't be upgraded, but the carrier business model depends on you signing a new 2 year contract in exchange for a new "free" phone... with upgraded software.

If the vast majority of people were only able to buy laptops via their ISP, their ISP would use upgrades as a lever to force 2 year contracts, just like cell phone operators.

Re:Make phones like laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510187)

Ah! you mean just like you can pop Mac OS X on your laptop?

Re:Make phones like laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510205)

Can you upgrade the memory on a phone?

Re:Make phones like laptops (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510359)

If you're handy with a soldering iron you might be able to.

Re:Make phones like laptops (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510597)

No chance, the packages have more pins for more memory, and probably a completely different voltage as well.

Re:Make phones like laptops (2)

neokushan (932374) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510213)

You can't upgrade the RAM on a phone, so there's that. However, what you've just described (sans memory card) is possible with Android as it is, depending on how willing your manufacturer and/or carrier are to letting you unlock the device. Anyone with a Galaxy Nexus can install Jelly Bean onto it right now if they wanted, same with the Galaxy S III or the HTC One X, despite official ROMs not being available yet - all because of being able to root them.

Re:Make phones like laptops (2)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510345)

That's the last thing manufacturers want. They saw what happened to the PC hardware market, which was basically a race to the bottom on price. If they can do ANYTHING to differentiate themselves from each other they will, even if it means they have to support hardware themselves. Unfortunately they want it both ways, selling commodity hardware with a "unique" wrapper.

The way it should work is similar to Cisco's model (not that Cisco is all that great either). Buy the hardware, and buy a support contract. As long as you have the support contract you get 1) firmware patches and updates in a timely manner. 2) 24 hr "no questions asked" hardware replacement. 3) Good, understandable tech support who will follow up and make sure things are working. Once you attach revenue to support it will improve.

Re:Make phones like laptops (4, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510561)

That's the last thing manufacturers want. They saw what happened to the PC hardware market, which was basically a race to the bottom on price.

Too late.

Chinese companies like MediaTek, Allwinner and RockChip are already producing and selling very capable low cost SoCs. Manufacturers are already using them in $150 phones that perform better than last year's premium handsets.

http://armdevices.net/category/chip-provider/mediatek/ [armdevices.net]

I've said this before, but I don't think we're too far away from seeing very usable phones cheap enough to be retailing in blister-packs in supermarkets.

Re:Make phones like laptops (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510617)

Upgrading software and replacing hardware is a great strategy for the telecoms -- both are dirt cheap compared to their service contracts. I think they could easily sell a "never-ending upgrades" premium contract that gave new hardware with the latest software, say, once a year. That would make everyone happy: Google because Android fragmentation would be fixed, and in basically the same way iPhone fragmentation is fixed: massive turnover. Hardware manufacturers could sell in much greater volume, which would stabilize revenue, enhance the barrier to enter the hardware market, and relieve the pressure of competing on features. Telecoms would be selling an expensive "premium" product in addition to the cheapest phones.

The customer would pay more but would have great service (unlimited voice/text, generous net access) and new hardware and software. Further, this could eventually kill the low-end market as everyone (developers, Google, telecoms, and hardware manufacturers) moves forward and abandons the old hardware and software.

That's the last thing manufacturers want. They saw what happened to the PC hardware market, which was basically a race to the bottom on price.

You mean the explosive corporate growth and decades of massive profits? Being the next HP, Dell or IBM/Levano would be an amazing success for any phone manufacturer.

Re:Make phones like laptops (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510499)

My subnotebook was a cheap-ass one purchased... hmm. Don't even know. It's a Gateway LT3102 or 3012 or some shit like that. It's got R690M chipset so that should help date it. It only runs Vista correctly. I've heard that you can use drivers for some other machine to get Windows 7 working. XP, no, fail. Linux, no, fail. radeon gives me massive display corruption and fglrx has never supported this hardware. Did a test recently and the radeon driver is worse than ever.

Re:Make phones like laptops (1)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510589)

Look back to how Windows propagated. When DOS first came out, hardware was all over the map. There wasn't a standard PC platform. In the mid-80's I was running a Mac publishing firm and I simply wasn't interested in trying to port our products to DOS because I didn't think we could do a good job supporting customers who had such disparate hardware. So products like Crystal Quest, Fluent Fonts and Conflict Catcher stayed Mac-only. By the late 80's, my sales VP was pushing to expand into the early versions of Windows. At that point, we had a solid foundation in Mac software and I thought perhaps we could handle the issue. I was wrong. When we started shipping Windows-3 versions of our products, we had a support nightmare. There were just too many platforms to make coherent support possible.

In 1995, fifteen years after DOS hit the shelves, Microsoft set out a definitive list of what minimum hardware a manufacturer had to provide to be able to bundle Win95. Prior to Win95, it was so bad a manufacturer could sell a Windows PC without a mouse. The market learned that if they wanted the new Windows, they had to see a special logo that meant their new PC could support it. That one move changed the landscape and made experiences like yours possible. It took him 15 years but Bill Gates finally saw the value of forcing manufacturers to build a standard PC.

Google is run by smarter guys and it probably won't take them 15 years to figure this out. Somewhere down the road, there'll be a Android-Inside logo that only appears on handsets that meet minimum hardware and software specs. Moreover, the Ai logo will mean customers will be able to upgrade their OS whenever Google releases a new version instead of having to wait for the telcos to allow them to do so.

Once that logo appears, you'll see your WinXP-like experience repeated and Google will see more iPhone developers working on Android. It's just a matter of time.
 

Can I blame the manufacturers?? (1)

jampola (1994582) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510163)

HTC and Samsung along with countless others IMO fail to push updates quickly enough. I only got my official OTA update for my Galaxy Note about 3 weeks ago. Does Google try to enforce some kind of release schedule across manufacturers?

Re:Can I blame the manufacturers?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510329)

Yes, you may. They're certainly part of the problem. They are niggardly with updates, and then you've got vendors like Verizon which drag out the updates so they can be "tested" with their network. From my past experience with CM7 on my old Droid, they're doing a poor job of that on both the vendor's side and Verizon's side.

Combine that with an apparent desire from the vendor and the mobile provider to enforce planned obsolesence (Gotta get them to sign off on a new contract you know...) we have part of the problem we see with "fragmentation". (Guess what Verizon, your new data plans made it cheaper for me to just buy a new phone off-contract when I want to and keep my current agreements in place. Way to go guys!!)

...why would they want to upgrade your phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510167)

The main problem with Android is that none of the companies that produce Android phones want you to upgrade your phone. They would prefer you bought a new one. Apple has a different plan as they acknowledge that as a happy customer you will buy their products again and they don't care which ones as long as you buy Apple. If you buy a HTC however they stop caring about you as soon as you walk out the door with your new phone. Most tech companies forget that customer service results in revenue and delude themselves into thinking that volume of crappy products results in revenue.

Re:...why would they want to upgrade your phone? (1)

TrueSpeed (576528) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510189)

I thought the Apple plan was to deliver gimped versions of iOS, with missing features, to phones below the current version?

Re:...why would they want to upgrade your phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510387)

That's certainly not happening right at the moment. It's "fragmentation" as they're calling it- but NOBODY in the pundit crowd's calling Apple out for it like they are Google right now.

There's a reason I don't like and don't listen to Pundits anymore. They're more full of sh*t than a Christmas Goose.

Re:...why would they want to upgrade your phone? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510595)

They do. More recent phones have more capable hardware. The new iOS is written to make use of the latest phones' hardware and sometimes the older ones just can't do everything the new ones can. Apple would rather make a feature contingent on having newer hardware than have their brand tarnished by a touted new feature running poorly.

Android has a lot more phones, multiple manufacturers and more carriers to deal with. In principle they can and I think "they" do, using the term "they" to include Google (who knows what ICS is supposed to do and how it's supposed to look), the manufacturer (who knows the hardware capability best and has to ensure that it complies with radio emissions and operation rules) and finally the carrier (who's responsible for making sure the phone is fully interoperable with their network and runs their proprietary apps.).

If either the carrier or the manufacturer isn't happy with the way ICS works on a particular phone model, (Is sluggish, doesn't support popular features well, is crashy, or doesn't look good and doesn't make their company look good, they're never going to release it, even if you the user might be satisfied with it.

Re:...why would they want to upgrade your phone? (2)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510373)

That would make sense if the experience of forced obsolescence and locked bootloaders on e.g. Motorola wouldn't make their customers prefer a better brand, like Samsung, instead. After all, you get to keep your apps on a newer version of the same OS from a different manufacturer. If anything, with Android you're free to choose a manufacturer that gives you the better service.

Slow news day? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510169)

For my sins I watched the fireside chat yesterday, they seemed to field most questions OK, also the question that was mentioned, was one of many, and the guy answering it was the "glue" between the rest of them. He was also joking about quite a bit, it was all good natured banter. On a more serious note, for a free OS, and one that comes with hardware requirements, what do you expect the device manufacturers to do? The "great recession" was still extant last I noticed, and in developed markets smartphone adoption is reaching 50% so the low hanging fruit is already gone for the most part, it's just the mass market low end to poach, and gingerbread is still a damned fine OS IMO.

Out of interest, how do Ubuntu installs shape up over the same curve? Or even OSX, though the clientèle is a tad different :P

Not affiliated, etc.

Addresses one issue but not the other (4, Insightful)

Michalson (638911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510183)

The PDK does address an issue that Google shouldn't have made an issue to begin with - manufacturers actually getting some lead time. But it doesn't address the issue of why Gingerbread itself is still such a big chunk of the market.

ICS simply can't run on budget Android devices. The Android makers that are making money (Samsung) are targeting a much wider market then just the high end subsidized North American market. Samsung is able to turn a profit because they're spreading their costs over a much wider net with both mid range phones like the Ace line and a lot of super-low end ones (Y, Mini, Pocket) that compete directly with feature phones and in emerging markets. ICS is never going to run on those and Samsung and others won't try - they're still releasing brand new phones, 8 months later, running Gingerbread with no hope for an upgrade.

Android will continue to be 'fragmented' between Gingerbread and whatever the latest and greatest is for a long time, at least as long as the gulf exists between heavily carrier subsized phones in a few countries (allowing iPhones, Samsung Galaxy Ss and HTC One Xs to sell in any quantity) and full cost phones in other countries where (Gingerbread) Android's price point is the biggest selling point against more expensive smart phones and increasingly identically priced feature phones.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510221)

Except that it turns out ICS runs quite well on older devices. My nexus one runs it better than it runs gingerbread.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (4, Informative)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510283)

The issue with the Nexus One is that the OS partition doesn't have enough space to take ICS. So to upgrade requires blowing away everything on the device, including any music and photos stored on it. Of course, if you back up it can work, unless you no longer have enough space to restore the backup after the OS upgrade. But that's not a seamless upgrade by any means. Post-Honeycomb devices use a unified OS/data store partition so the issue does not exist.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510379)

Tell the customers to bring it into a {network provider's} store, and they'll upgrade it for free while trying to sell them a newer phone. Missing a lot of opportunities here, many of which do not involve angering the customers; but I digress, the vast majority of us will probably be stuck on 2.3 well into the next decade.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510527)

Tell the customers to bring it into a {network provider's} store, and they'll upgrade it for free while trying to sell them a newer phone. Missing a lot of opportunities here, many of which do not involve angering the customers; but I digress, the vast majority of us will probably be stuck on 2.3 well into the next decade.

Oops. "Sorry sir, we bricked it, would you like a newer phone?"

Ahem.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (2)

Arashi256 (1804688) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510305)

Exactly - GP is pure rubbish. I flashed my Nexus S single core phone with ICS and it ran a damned sight faster than Gingerbread (for which the Nexus S was the reference device for).

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (3, Interesting)

Michalson (638911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510545)

It has nothing to do with "older" devices and how well they run ICS, but budget devices even from this year. Your Nexus One and Nexus S (circa Jan 2010 and Dec 2010) still run circles around budget Android phones like a Galaxy Pocket [gsmarena.com] (circa Feb 2012).

A 2 year old used Nexus One is still selling for more then budget Android phones sold outside the subsidized market of North America. Just because your Porsche 911 is 10 years old doesn't put it in the same racing category as a 2012 Kia Rio.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510301)

This statement is not wholly accurate. There's a slew of Cortex-A8 devices with 512Mb RAM that have had ICS put onto them showing up on the shelves- prime example is Polaroid's new top of the line tablet offering that showed up in Big Lots and similar places recently. If you have enough 3D muscle in the SoC, you can do ICS with that device and those comprise many of the devices out there- and it does it well. Where the problem lies is in the Froyo and first gen Gingerbread devices- they don't have enough RAM on the SoC because of the cost figure for 512Mb at that time. Anything pre that period will not be able to run ICS or Jelly Bean, even if they have the 3D muscle to back it up.

The problem's not "fragmentation". That's a STUPID way of framing the issue in question. You don't consider not being able to run the latest iOS on a first gen iPhone as "fragmentation". You don't consider not being able to run Win7 on a Pentium II era laptop or desktop as "fragmentation". So, why in the HELL do you call this "fragmentation"? You shouldn't. And it's not due to budget devices either. It's OLD devices. Without the tech specs to run it in the first place. The problem arose from Android adapting and growing rather fast, combined with a tendency of the phone vendors to want to basically discard older versions of their gear before their time as planned obsolescence.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510481)

If my HTC Legend with ARM11 and 384MiB RAM can run ICS then any "super low end" phone can. Have used an unofficial ICS port several months now without problems.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510493)

Exactly. The Android phones that really compete against Apple are the ones getting ICS or Jelly Bean. But as the numbers show, they are only 7% of the Android market.

That means that the majority of Android's market is low end, limited functionality phones. The kind that are just better than a Feature phone.

This is not a flame starter or an attack on Android, but a realistic look at what the market will bear. There is not enough "rich" people to buy all the high end phones. The majority need a phone with functionality more than a hand held computer that also makes calls.

Android is free for OEM and Gingerbread has all the features that their majority of customers are seeking/can afford. That is why Android has so much market share and yet Apple has most of the profits.

Re:Addresses one issue but not the other (1)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510629)

ICS simply can't run on budget Android devices. The Android makers that are making money (Samsung) are targeting a much wider market then just the high end subsidized North American market. Samsung is able to turn a profit because they're spreading their costs over a much wider net with both mid range phones like the Ace line and a lot of super-low end ones (Y, Mini, Pocket) that compete directly with feature phones and in emerging markets. ICS is never going to run on those and Samsung and others won't try - they're still releasing brand new phones, 8 months later, running Gingerbread with no hope for an upgrade. Android will continue to be 'fragmented' between Gingerbread and whatever the latest and greatest is for a long time, at least as long as the gulf exists between heavily carrier subsized phones in a few countries (allowing iPhones, Samsung Galaxy Ss and HTC One Xs to sell in any quantity) and full cost phones in other countries where (Gingerbread) Android's price point is the biggest selling point against more expensive smart phones and increasingly identically priced feature phones.

There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it's a good thing to have cheap low-end choices, as long as you're told up front when you buy the phone that it's not capable of upgrade because of its limited hardware capability, and you pay more for a more powerful phone that can support the latest, most powerful and prettiest Android.

Not as big a deal as might first appear (5, Insightful)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510191)

Fragmentation has been getting less and less of an issue for Android over time, it's a lot more complex than Apples presentations would have you believe.

The first issue is that a lot of features announced as part of new Android releases are actually new features of the apps, and those apps are often backported to old OS releases and released through the Play store. For instance, basically any feature added to Maps becomes available all the way back to at least Gingerbread, and I think also Froyo. Voice search, upgraded Gmail apps, upgraded YouTube apps, new versions of the Play app etc, all backported. Apple tends to announce new app features as part of new iOS releases, and then remove them from the "upgrade" distributed to old devices. Therefore you can be running a new iOS or an old Android yet have the same or better features!

So what about from a developer perspective? Well, here too the issue is more complicated than it looks. A lot of the new APIs that are "pure software" have also been backported through compatibility libraries. These are drop-in libraries you include with your app download that provide the API on older phones that don't have them natively. The APIs that remain are often hardware oriented and wouldn't be available on older iPhones either.

The final issue is upgrades that aren't. I used to think that OS upgrades on a phone were a no-brainer and if you didn't get them, you got screwed. Since then I've seen a few things that changed my mind. One is that manufacturers including Apple have sometimes (not always) released updates for old devices that can't really keep up and which seriously degrade performance. Typically you can't go back, so that's a problem. The upcoming iOS 6 might be seen as a downgrade on the Maps front as well.

Another is that the Gingerbread to ICS was a huge change in user interface - for the better, I think - but time and time again the software business has learned that some users just don't want big UI changes, period. I'm pretty sure if every Gingerbread device became Jellybean tomorrow, a lot of Slashdot readers would rejoice and a lot of our friends/relatives/etc would hate Android with a passionate fire, just because it's a big change that would take them by surprise. Apple has largely avoided this problem by not making any big UI changes over the iPhones lifetime. You could argue they got it right first time, I guess ;)

Re:Not as big a deal as might first appear (2)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510405)

Except for bugs that crash the phone when you least expect it. Google doesn't seem very interested in bug fixes on old platforms. You can't tell me that Froyo's core code is perfect and the reason my old Galaxy Tab crashes is all because of Samsung's drivers. If they fix a bug I'm sure it goes into the next release. I'm amazed by how much more stable my GS2 is on ICS over Gingerbread, going from strange lock ups every day or so to not needing a reboot for 2 weeks now (since I loaded ICS).

I actually just wrote about the PDK hours ago (4, Informative)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510197)

To quote what I wrote:

The general consensus regarding the PDK for Android Jellybean and upwards seems to lean in the same direction as I am saying: "it won't amount to much, if anything at all." The biggest problem for end-users is the fact that companies do not want to do updates for already-released products, so releasing a PDK that is supposed to let start working on the updates slightly earlier than regularly -- with no other positive effects or incentives whatsoever -- really means nothing. If Google really sought to improve the situation for end-users they should start maintaining a "Google Experience" - version of Android.

Implementing a "Google Experience" Android would first off require them to modularize Android somewhat so that it can be slimmed down by not installing features that won't be used, like e.g. voice search and everything related to it is mostly worthless in any country which do not support it so why insist on installing it? Allow user to choose to install it, yes, but do not force it. Modularizing Android this way would help in a situation where there is not enough storage to install the whole thing: the installer could present the user with a warning dialog explaining the situation and let user pick and unpick features -- with explanation on what each feature means -- until the system fits comfortably, then before starting the installation remind the user of what features won't be available and make certain the user still wishes to proceed.

A second thing that would be needed would be for manufacturers to start including, say, 32 kilobytes of ROM where would be details about the actual hardware: device manufacturer, model, revision, amount of installed RAM, sizes, types and location of any storage and then a listing of all the hardware with manufacturer, model, revision, connection type, memory addresses/register addresses/etc. needed for using the device, what features the device supports and so on. The installer would then be able to check the list against Google-maintained drivers to see if there even exists drivers for the hardware, if the drivers support the connection type/scheme, etc. Also, one of the more important things would be that it would also be able to check if the Google-maintained drivers support all the features the hardware supports, and if not, the installer could warn the user of the features they would lose by installing "Google Experience" - Android.

In that ROM could also be defined a list -- even if it were just a partial one -- of what applications the manufacturer provides on the stock ROM so that the "Google Experience" installer could try to offer substitutes for them after the installation is finished.

These two things would solve almost all the major issues related to upgrading to newer Android-versions and would quite obviously benefit end-users enormously. As always, though, there's a catch. Actually, two catches, in this case: manufacturers won't want to make it easier for customers to get updates for their devices because they want people to keep buying new shiny, ergo. they will not install the kind of list I mentioned, and Google won't want to go along with the plan because Google wants only their Nexus-line to be directly Google-approved.

Re:I actually just wrote about the PDK hours ago (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510309)

The biggest problem for end-users is the fact that companies do not want to do updates for already-released products

not necessarily so - I have a bodged-up version of ICS running on my Samsung Galaxy S1, so kudos to them for taking the effort. But I can imagine I won't get a JB upgrade, only partly because of the time pressure to fit it in, but mainly because my device will not have enough RAM to run it acceptably (ICS isn't as good a user experience as GB on my device, its nowhere near as fast). So its not so much manufacturers conspiring to prevent you from getting upgrades to firce you to buy a new phone, its more that the OS requires more power than the old phones have.

This is true of my Galaxy, what of the more budget phones that are still out there? Don't forget that I'm locked into my phone contract until February. I won't be upgrading until then, and I expect a lot more people will be in the same boat. 2 years is a very long time when it comes to new devices and OS upgrades.

So maybe Google needs to stop releasing OSs so quickly, which would give them more time to add better features and improve the quality, then realise that a everyone will be running the old stuff for 2 years at least before the next version becomes the majority version.

BTW, people will buy the latest shiny no matter what - your contract ends, you get a new one and the carrier will offer you shiny shiny for the same price. Everyone takes the offer, though sure, some people will sell the new rather than the old ones on ebay. Of course, that means the old ones still have a long life when they're used by their new owners....

Re:I actually just wrote about the PDK hours ago (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510389)

Budget phones are obviously a category for themselves, I still believe that with slimming down and modularizing Android one could actually still fit several updates even on those. One thing that budget phones often lack is storage space which makes it hard to fit newer Android-releases there, but with modularized installs one could leave less-useful features out and still get the rest of the benefits of the newer release. Also, when it comes to RAM the "Google Experience" Android would quite likely actually fit much better in there than the stock ROMs do due to e.g. how horribly inefficient Samsung's TouchWiz is; strip that out and POOF, you'll have just made 100 megabytes of free RAM.

On the other hand I own two quite well-specced Android-devices, one Acer Iconia Tab A500 10"-tablet and a Samsung Galaxy Note-mobile; both sport plenty of storage, they're dual-core systems, 1GB RAM and all that, both are still quite recent devices, yet I still don't expect to receive new updates for either of them anymore. There is no reason hardware-wise why either of them couldn't be upgraded, I just see no willigness from the manufacturers to do that, nor does Google even try to give them an incentive for doing that.

Not running ICS? Of course not (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510231)

Even though my Viewsonic G-Tablet will run it, there is no official version or support and the only version I have found is missing enough functionality that I see no reason to install it.

I would run it on my phone, but again, there is no official version for it.

The reason people don't run the latest or even current versions of Andriod is because it requires technical expertise, willingness to brick phone/tablet, and possibly putting up with a loss of functionalit; OR spending $600 for a new device.

Re:Not running ICS? Of course not (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510331)

Bought my unlocked Galaxy Nexus straight from Google Play for $400 rather than letting Sprint subsidize it for $200. I then put it on a pre-paid web heavy plan for $30/month. I've had it for two months, and in two more months, I will have gotten my $400 back, compared to staying with Sprint. My previous phone lasted four years, if I only keep this one half as long I'll still be ahead almost $1000.

Not only that, my phone now gets upgrades from Google, rather than a carrier, and I'm looking forward to Jellybean when it's released. I encourage you, and everyone else, to think long term rather than jumping to the path of least resistance. If you decide to buy stuff that is locked down, subsidized, and bloated... don't be angry with Google who is doing their part. Other options are available.

Too late (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510237)

The genie is out of the bottle.
 
You can take our data plans but you cannot take our FREEDOM!!!

forced updates? (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510245)

I don't really see another way around this. The same problem plagues computer OSs also, look at windows.

The only way I see to do this is to either force the updates directly or to have a short cutoff point for support and compatibility. (thus forcing them indirectly)

A lot of consumers won't like this. They naturally want/prefer something they bought to last a lifetime without "paying again" to update or replace/upgrade it. But in the long-run, fragmentation is bad for them. Since companies make money off upgrades and updates and not from customers buying/paying only once, they're seen as evil for prodding or forcing their users to keep moving up. Unfortunately only part of that is profiteering. The other benefit is one to the users in the long term.

It's a difficult thing to get consumers to understand, they tend to see the short term costs and overlook the long-term benefits. This creates a difficult balancing act for the vendors. Updates need to be as transparent, quick, easy, and cheap as possible, while keeping the platform on the move. It's impossible to design hardware that's future-proof on software, so new hardware has to be bought as well as new software.

Apple appears to be one of the better players in the "move along" game. They won't support an OS more than 1 version back, and have a somewhat regular release schedule. OS upgrades used to be expensive, but have dropped dramatically in price recently. The updates have several big new features added to them as well as improvement on existing features, so the users can at least see some immediate justification for upgrading. From what I see, around 30% of Macintoshes run the current version, 50% are one version behind, and only about 20% are two or more versions out of date. They've done an excellent job in keeping their platform on the move.

The critics will usually still beat on the same negatives while ignoring the benefits. There's a regular "tax" for the newest OS. New hardware has to be purchased more frequently. But I think it's worth it in the long-term for the users. Fragmentation is avoided. Developers don't have to write code that will work on machines spanning a decade of OS or hardware. (this makes development faster and cheaper, support cheaper, and keeps 3rd party app quality and features high.

Digital TV is a good example of the benefits that result in forcing change. The only thing that was going to get the industry to move to digital was to make it mandatory. I'm sure there are still some that are moaning that their old TV was working fine and why did they have to force me to buy a new set. But I think most of us can be thankful for the result.

So the issue isn't just with the vendors, it's also an issue of the users. Your userbase alse has to be willing to tolerate any inconvenience and expense associated with staying current. And the simple fact of the matter is, not all userbases will tolerate it. I think the majority of people that buy cheap phones want to spend as little as possible, and that's not compatible with regular upgrades, of hardware OR software. This could make the problem very difficult for Google to solve, because a big part of their market is the cheap phones. The users AND the actual phone vendors both don't want to invest in keeping current. I personally think the only way for them to fix this is to make the upgrade process something that the vendors can very easily "turn on" in their phones, a process that's very low cost to the vendors (in terms of development, support, and need for new hardware) and zero cost and inconvenience to the end users. Anything else just won't work in those markets. If you can't deliver on all of those points, the vendors will make each handset work with one build only, and will continue to sell it until its unprofitable, growing the fragmentation.

Re:forced updates? (2)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510659)

I don't really see another way around this. The same problem plagues computer OSs also, look at windows.

The only way I see to do this is to either force the updates directly or to have a short cutoff point for support and compatibility. (thus forcing them indirectly)

A lot of consumers won't like this.

Yeah, it's MY PHONE. I was happy with it when I bought it and I DON'T TRUST YOU to decide what software I should be running on MY PHONE.

Carriers sees it as a phone is running on THEIR NETWORK and they DON'T TRUST YOU to decide what software should have access to THEIR NETWORK.

The manufacturer sees it similarly as well. The phone carries THEIR BRANDING and is under THEIR WARRANTY. You have no business screwing with the way it works if it could tarnish THEIR REPUTATION and cost them money.

Any of those reasons alone is sufficient why there should be no forced upgrades.

Phone makers want to control the experience (2)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510253)

As long as phone makers want to control the experience and Google doesn't provide its own EASY way to bypass that, they're going to have to deal with a fragmented base.

Missing the point much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510257)

Testing from 2.3->4.0->4.1 is NOTHING compared to testing and redeveloping across every different gpu and cpu that tries to beat it's way into the mobile market.

"Fragmentation" is abjectly STUPID in this case. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510261)

The problem with "fragmentation" has less to do with Google, or even the vendors, and more to do with the rapid development of the Android OS and the devices capable of running it. The devices that run 1.0 can't run 4.0- not enough resources in RAM or Flash.

This bitch is stupid, really. Anyone bitching that an old Iphone can't run the latest iOS or a laptop from 5 years back can't really run Win7 or the upcoming Win8, calling that situation "fragmentation"? NO? Well shut the hell up on it about Android, will you? That's what's going on.

I don't know if this will fix it or not. (5, Interesting)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510285)

7% is even more pathetic than it sounds. Let me back up and start with a different observation...

I keep reading that 80% of iOS users are on the latest release, and it seems too high to me that 80% of users would upgrade. Well, they didn't. iOS sales are growing at about 100% per year. Which means that at any point in time, approximately half the units ever sold were sold in the past year. So 50% of iOS devices run the latest version because they were bought since it came out. Now, only 60% of the remaining 50% have to actually upgrade--and I haven't accounted for old devices that are no longer in use and therefore no longer show up in these stats, and therefore increase the proportion of newer devices.

Well, guess what? Android device sales have been growing even faster than iOS. More than 50% of units shipped in the last year. But only 7% of units have the version that was released 1.5 years ago??? This means the device manufacturers are doing a unbelievably bad job of keeping up to date. If this continues, then only 7% of devices will be running Jelly Bean by about the beginning of 2014. Now there are certain things about the way that Android is distributed which mean that new versions will necessarily spread slower than iOS to some degree, and this announcement is an attempt to change that. But given the current spread of new OS versions, I think it's pretty obvious that the handset manufacturers (and carriers) don't even care and are not even trying AT ALL. Given that, I'm not sure that making it easier for them will be enough.

I don't know how google solves this, but they sure need to! This is a good (and necessary) step, but I worry that device manufacturers will not be sufficiently motivated to take advantage and stay as up to date as they should...

Re:I don't know if this will fix it or not. (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510415)

7% is even more pathetic than it sounds. Let me back up and start with a different observation...

I keep reading that 80% of iOS users are on the latest release, and it seems too high to me that 80% of users would upgrade. Well, they didn't. iOS sales are growing at about 100% per year. Which means that at any point in time, approximately half the units ever sold were sold in the past year. So 50% of iOS devices run the latest version because they were bought since it came out. Now, only 60% of the remaining 50% have to actually upgrade--and I haven't accounted for old devices that are no longer in use and therefore no longer show up in these stats, and therefore increase the proportion of newer devices.

Well, guess what? Android device sales have been growing even faster than iOS. More than 50% of units shipped in the last year. But only 7% of units have the version that was released 1.5 years ago??? This means the device manufacturers are doing a unbelievably bad job of keeping up to date. If this continues, then only 7% of devices will be running Jelly Bean by about the beginning of 2014. Now there are certain things about the way that Android is distributed which mean that new versions will necessarily spread slower than iOS to some degree, and this announcement is an attempt to change that. But given the current spread of new OS versions, I think it's pretty obvious that the handset manufacturers (and carriers) don't even care and are not even trying AT ALL. Given that, I'm not sure that making it easier for them will be enough.

I don't know how google solves this, but they sure need to! This is a good (and necessary) step, but I worry that device manufacturers will not be sufficiently motivated to take advantage and stay as up to date as they should...

I came across the same observation too, struggling to understand why this is a "problem" for Google when damn near every device on the planet (primarily mobile devices) is replaced with new hardware every 2 - 3 years. The other 90% of manufacturers on the planet would kill to have a hardware refresh cycle that fast.

However, trying to compare Andriod to iOS isn't exactly fair. iOS has ONE line of hardware to support, manufactured by the same company, which makes it pretty damn easy when one hand is talking to the other, and you're only dealing with one hand.

Re:I don't know if this will fix it or not. (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510461)

However, trying to compare Andriod to iOS isn't exactly fair. iOS has ONE line of hardware to support, manufactured by the same company, which makes it pretty damn easy when one hand is talking to the other, and you're only dealing with one hand.

Yes, it's harder for manufacturers to keep up on Android. But that's no excuse for this: between 6 months and 18 months after ICS was released, fewer than 15% of handsets shipped with it.

Re:I don't know if this will fix it or not. (2)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510565)

But only 7% of units have the version that was released 1.5 years ago??? This means the device manufacturers are doing a unbelievably bad job of keeping up to date.

ICS hasn't even been out for a year. More like 9 months. But yes, the manufacturers are terrible at it. They are STILL selling devices with gingerbread. Though I think any phone that has been released in the last 2 months have all run gingerbread. Though, I don't keep up with the low-end releases, only the flagship devices.

Re:I don't know if this will fix it or not. (4, Interesting)

rgbrenner (317308) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510581)

I keep reading that 80% of iOS users are on the latest release, and it seems too high to me that 80% of users would upgrade.

I have an iPhone, and I don't have a hard time believing 80% of users would update.

1) iTunes, which they are already using, automatically checks for updates, and tells you when one is available, and asks you if you want to install it. IIRC, if you decline the update, it will repeatedly ask you to install the update every time you open iTunes. You can disable updates, but that is not the default.. so it would require action from the user.

2) if you choose not to install it, it won't be long (a few months) before you will start seeing messages like "this app requires at least iOS vX.X.X", and you won't be able to install new apps on your phone or update the apps you already have installed.

So although you could choose not to upgrade, it is very easy to update, and if you install new apps (or update your apps), then the updates are pretty much required.

Charity begins at home (4, Insightful)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510369)

You know that Android vendor you bought Google? Motorola Mobility.

Certain phones are still stuck on 2.x because *your company* won't update them. Less than 2 year old (24 month contract) phones are stuck on froyo - e.g Defy.

Providing an unlocked bootloader so the community (e.g. cyanogenmod) can update them to Jellybean would be a good sign.

Why we still have Android 2.3 devices (2)

steveha (103154) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510413)

TFA says devices are still "three major releases behind". Well, let's think about that.

After 2.3 came 3.0, Honeycomb, which was for tablets only. Then after a long time came 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, for phones again. Now 4.1, Jellybean, is the next major release, and it is so new that Google just announced it.

So, what is the actual current situation? Jellybean is totally new and there is no way any phone can have it yet. ICS is shipping on some phones, and other phones have shipped with 2.3 Gingerbread but with a promise to upgrade to ICS soon. No phones are running Honeycomb because it is for tablets only.

So I think the "three major releases behind" bit is disingenuous. It would be more fair to say "ICS has been a bit slow to roll out" but I guess that's not as impressive.

steveha

TWO versions behind, not three. (2)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510417)

Only TWO versions behind, not three. NO phones received Honeycomb. That was tablet only and doesn't count.

Re:TWO versions behind, not three. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510651)

Well, that makes it all OK then :/

No one wants to keep phones up to date (2)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510517)

If your old phone has all the new stuff you're less likely to buy a new phone. Manufacturers have no incentive to update their phones and I suspect they'll fight any initiative that tries and force them to do it.

Re:No one wants to keep phones up to date (3, Insightful)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510553)

And by "old," you mean 18 months. It's a significant problem for those of us living in Canada, where 3 year contracts are the norm. By the time the contract is half over, your phone is no longer supported.

Serious issue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40510525)

This is a critical issue.

Microsoft, at least, made a core of code that ran PCs in the early days. It was connected to hardware specific resources by drivers. Evolution of the platform OS incorporated backward compatibility as essential and in the few places where this broke down, they at least made a passing attempt to provide tools (such as virtualizations) to allow it, even it if does come with higher costs as in Win7.

I realize these are PCs and not phones that I am using as an example, but the connector here is that Google has put the core code out there, and handset makers A, B and C are tweaking these fundamental portions, adding phone-specific stuff, and doing it in the face of product revision cycles that make the early days of the PC look placid. who has time and resources to track HUNDREDS of variations? This isn't about plastic color. It's about gazillions of lines of code.

Apple, OTOH, has a thread of consistency, usually an upgrade path, and other ecosystem-specific attractions. When you take this fact, and the fact that no one in Android land seems to be making any money for their efforts, I am puzzled why anyone wants to do development on Android?

Really, why? It's not about market share; effort should be about profitably selling successful product (apps). Taking your valuable programming smarts and wasting them on something that promises little reward seems just silly.

It won't help (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510563)

It won't help, and here's why:

Google fundamentally do not understand the mobile phone industry. Most phone manufacturers are following a broadly similar development methodology: design phone, put together firmware to run on it, release phone, get on with designing next phone.

This is all carried out at breakneck speed because most of the manufacturers insist on having a stupidly large range of handsets.

Once work on the next phone has started, firmware upgrades to the last model they were working on are few and far between - and often only because really bad bugs have been discovered. Sometimes not even then.

You can't resolve this with a generic Android build which anyone can install because mobile phone hardware isn't sufficiently standardised as to allow this. Look at cyanogenmod: yeah, it works on some devices, but it requires a build specific to the device and many devices have a great big long list of caveats associated with running cyanogenmod on them.

This won't change any time soon because the phone industry is happy with things the way they are - if anything, it works in their favour. Your two year old handset's looking a little long in the tooth because we haven't bothered to release any updates for it? Fine, your contract's up for renewal soon anyway. Why not just get a new handset then?

how 'bout that samsung kies? (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510635)

I tried upgrading the official, correct way - requires an app that forces itself into the usb stack, and doesn't run properly on anything other than 32bit windows. My galaxy S1 can't upgrade itself from the phone - so I'm still on 2.2 unless I want to root it again. So it's not really google's fault, it's somewhere between AT&T (for me) and Samsung.

The REAL problem with fragmentation is... (3, Interesting)

jonwil (467024) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510637)

That manufacturers continue to release brand new devices running Gingerbread with no upgrade path to Ice Cream Sandwich whatsoever. And its not like these are devices that started development long before ICS appeared, some of them are devices that were likely early enough in their development phase that they could easily have started work on an ICS port at that point (and in some cases even potentially switched to ICS before the release)

Google already has certification requirements for a "Google" device that has Play/Marketplace, gmail etc on it.
Some things I think Google should add to those requirements that would benefit Android:
1.They should tell OEMs that after , any not-yet-released devices that want certification MUST be running Ice Cream Sandwich or at the very least have a defined upgrade path to ICS.
2.They should tell OEMs that Google must be the default search engine (after all, the search is a big part of how Google makes its money on Android)
3.They should tell OEMs that they must fully comply with the license of any and all software they are shipping on the phone (including the GPLv2 for the Linux Kernel). No more of this "its industry standard practice to release kernel source weeks/months after the binaries have shipped" BS that some OEMs *cough*HTC*cough* keep pulling again and again.

Re:The REAL problem with fragmentation is... (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 2 years ago | (#40510677)

That first one should have been after a certain date, any not-yet-released devices

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>