updated 12:40 pm EST, Sat November 13, 2010
Netflix says Android fragmentation hurting support
Netflix has had problems bringing its service to Android because of the inherent fragmentation of the platform, content development staffer Greg Peters said in an update late Friday. Both iPhone and Windows Phone 7 versions were finished quickly, but Android doesn't have the "generic and complete" copy protection needed to protect against stream ripping and keep deals with studios that wouldn't allow it otherwise. Without it, Netflix has to develop support for devices one at a time and has had to delay its Android launch well past other platforms.
"This is a much slower approach and leads to a fragmented experience on Android, in which some handsets will have access to Netflix and others won't," Peters wrote. "This clearly is not the preferred solution, and we regret the confusion it might create for consumers. However, we believe that providing the service for some Android device owners is better than denying it to everyone."
The Android port is still coming but will only reach "select" devices in early 2011. Netflix has been working on trying to get a more universal copy protection implementation but didn't have estimates for if or when this might be possible.
Google has denied fragmentation is an issue with Android, but the variety of active OS versions has been enough of an issue that it was used as a target by Steve Jobs when justifying the closed nature of the iPhone platform. Both Apple and now Microsoft can ensure that almost all devices using an OS have the latest version and can guarantee a common experience. Android's situation is gradually improving, but only 36 percent of devices are running the latest version since both phone makers and carriers are allowed to heavily customize the OS to their liking. The strategy has often led to devices getting upgrades months after the Google release or none at all.
The imminent Android 2.3 launch should ameliorate some of the fragmentation concerns, but most of what Google has done so far has been to break out core apps so that they can be updated independently of the OS underneath. Its approach wouldn't address Netflix's problem as the protection is woven into Android proper.