In a world loaded with disparate operating systems, each with multiple versions dating back many years, fragmentation has become a disease.
Or, as Google puts it, Android fragmentation is merely a new feature. That’s right. When software and hardware cannot provide a consistent experience for users of smartphones and tablets, that’s no longer fragmentation. It’s a feature.
Less Is More, Up Is Down
To be fair about it, fragmentation as a problem for computing device owners– PCs, Macs, smartphones, tablets, or whatever– is an age old issue.
In recent years, Apple has tried to minimize the impact of fragmentation by making OS X, and to an extent, iOS, available for free and useful on older devices.
Apple seems to have had greater success tightening up the fragmentation issue by having the latest operating system versions run on a larger percentage of devices still in use. That’s called penetration.
Microsoft’s Windows suffers from fragmentation, too, exemplified by the continued use of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 running on more than 70-percent of the world’s PCs.
Google’s Android OS on smartphones and tablets is the main culprit for OS fragmentation among mobile devices. With hundreds of smartphone makers using various versions of Android OS, there is little incentive to upgrade users to the latest version, instead making it easier and inexpensive simply to force customers to buy a new device.
While iOS 8, Apple’s latest, runs on more than 70-percent of installed devices, Android’s latest, Lollipop, released about the same time as iOS, has yet to crack the 2-percent mark.
That’s not a problem. That’s a feature. Google even highlights the issue in an Android television commercial called ‘Friends Furever’ which shows different animals working together, and ends with the message, ‘Be Together. Not The Same.’
Consider that a cute message but nevertheless an insult aimed at Apple’s customers, the majority of which run the latest version of iOS on iPhones and iPads (fewer animals), while Android OS runs on a much wider variety of devices (more animals that play together well).
The only problem with Google’s Friends Furever campaign is that it’s a lie. Apple’s iOS devices play and work together far better than the confusing menagerie of Android devices, with an array of hardware and OS versions that confuse customers to the point where most do not know they’re confused. But, as it was with Windows, the confusing mess of devices and Android versions is what the vast majority of their customers consider to be normal mobile computing.
Fragmentation Furever is a better but less accurate tag line than ‘Fragmentation. It’s a feature.’