The latest comes from ZDNet where an article implies that being open source is killing Android. Maybe we need a new definition of killing because the one I know doesn’t seem to apply to Android, now being used by more than 1.6-billion users worldwide. Killing Android? What did I miss?
Fragmentation? Bah Humbug!
Most of us who watch the technology industry that revolves around Apple (Google is out there, such like Jupiter; desolate, uninviting) know that Android suffers from what is called fragmentation. That means there are many older versions of Android on many hundreds of millions of devices. That contrasts sharply with Apple’s iOS which is now running on nearly 90-percent of all iPhones and iPads.
Fragmentation is the dark side of Android because so many device owners are still using very old versions of Google’s mobile OS and do not receive needed security upgrades and features. The latest Android OS, Marshmallow, was released about the same time as iOS 9.x early last autumn. iOS runs on nearly 90-percent of all iPhones and iPads while Marshmallow just topped 10-percent of Android devices.
That means most Android-based devices run older versions of Android, and are subject to security problems and malware because they can’t get a decent update.
Be Like Apple
ZDNet’s tech writer has a solution to the chaos. Take Android out of open source– where anyone can use it on any device that works; which explains all the different cell phone manufacturers and the problems their customers have– and make it a proprietary project. What’s interesting about that is how the proposal would make Android more like Apple’s iOS, which is highly proprietary and only runs on Apple designed hardware.
Here’s the problem.
That hasn’t worked, either. Google’s open source AOSP (the so-called Android Open Source Project) is what most cell phone and tablet makers use, but there’s also the more proprietary Google Mobile Services which gets Google’s blessing and is what hardware makers should and could be using exclusively.
The problem? Differentiation.
How is an expensive HP notebook that rivals a MacBook Pro in hardware capability differ itself from a $400 plastic Windows notebook from ASUS? It’s just the hardware. Otherwise, both devices pretty much work the same way because they both– $3,000 or $400– run Windows 10. So, let’s say half a dozen of the larger Android device makers decide to use only Google’s reference Android– the one from Google Mobile Services– instead of tacking on their own utilities and apps to create a difference between their smartphones and other Android-based smartphones.
Nothing. All those Android device makers using Google Mobile Services still have the same problem. Lack of differentiation. Why buy a $900 Samsung Galaxy S7 when a $200 Xiaomi brand performs exactly the same? Android’s worst enemy is not open source, it’s the lack of differentiation in its own world; just like Windows.