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Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

There is no Android, for we are many

Everyone’s excited about Android. We the varied, the open, the free! But if there’s one thing that came out of IFA, it’s that Android as a pure end user experience is dying. There are a huge and growing number of devices running Android for sure, but consumers are increasingly seeing a heavily customized user experience which aims to only be Android by name.

Manufacturers and carriers need to differentiate their devices and part of Android’s success is rooted (pun) in the flexibility it offers developers and the wide berth afforded by Google to OEMs. Unfortunately the result is a Wild West of software skins and fragmentation which threaten to damage the reputation of the platform on Main Street.

Consider this: A few months ago I walked into Random Computerz and bought a Windoze Lappy. I soon discovered it wouldn’t run Offiss because Random Computerz had customized the installation of Windoze to make it ‘better’. Better in this case meant incompatible with some useful apps. I then found out I couldn’t do half the stuff I wanted to do because Random Computerz had shipped the Lappy with Windoze 2009 instead of 2010. When I asked them, they said it could not be upgraded to 2010 and I should just buy Lappy 2 instead.

That never happened of course, but this story is Android all over. Almost all Android phones are heavily skinned and offer variable compatibility with apps in the Android Marketplace. Many cannot be upgraded to a more recent version of the OS without being rooted, which often voids warranties or support agreements. The upcoming Android tablet explosion is likely to compound this problem since not only will they be heavily skinned, but their screen sizes and hardware capabilities will be more varied compared with Android smartphones leading to more compatibility issues.

So as the fragmentation of this excellent OS continues unchecked, we are approaching a situation where there is no true Android because there are so many variants. As time passes those variants will become increasingly disparate as the likes of Sense and Touch Wiz start to completely abstract away Android from the consumer. While Main Street consumers believe they are buying an Android device, this will soon be in name only.

I guess in a way that’s ok. Not everyone wants the full control and customization of native Android. This is one of the problems that manufacturers and carriers are trying to address with their skins. It’s all heading in the direction of Windows Starter, while those wanting the Ultimate experience are being left in the cold.

Meanwhile by trying to solve the other problem, that of differentiation, OEMs are creating skins that aren’t necessarily adding significantly useful form or function. In many cases the skins just slow everything down, just like when a computer comes loaded with bloatware.

There’s certainly a market for Ultimate, i.e. the pure Google phone with stock Android, but this should not be hardware dependent. Consumers should be able to install the latest version of Android on any device with compatible hardware, just like with Windows or OSX.

Hey, did I just say that the Android world is becoming less open than Windows? Yes I think I did.

Neil Berman

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Sep 9, 2010 - Posted by | Hardware

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