updated 09:55 pm EDT, Tue June 1, 2010
Fragmentation described as a "bogeyman"
Google's Open Source & Compatibility Manager, Dan Morrill, has voiced frustration with the term "fragmentation" used to describe the Android platform. Morrill suggests the word carries a variety of different meanings, as "everyone has a different definition."
The term is used by some people to describe an ecosystem with too many different mobile operating systems, too many APIs for inconsistency across devices, several different versions of the same software, or even unique UI skins.
"Most of these definitions don't even have any impact on whether apps can run!" Morrill wrote. "Because it means everything, it actually means nothing, so the term is useless." The Google manager claims fragmentation is a "bogeyman, a red herring, a story you tell to frighten junior developers."
Morrill goes on to admit that there are real challenges in making Android devices compatible with each other. Running the OS on different devices inevitably leads to issues involving bugs, missing components, or APIs that have been added or altered.
To help developers overcome problems encountered while working with Google's mobile OS, the company offers an Android compatibility program. The system includes the Android source code, Compatibility Definition Document, and a Compatibility Test Suite. The tools are designed to enable developers to determine exactly what is required of the OS and quickly find any bugs that might emerge.
"We've been operating this compatibility process with our OEM partners for over a year now, and it's largely responsible for those 60+ device models being interoperable," said Morrill.