Android 6.0 Heightens Fragmentation Talk. What’s Google’s Big Plan?

Sometimes we wonder if Google’s not getting ahead of itself with these Android releases.  Android 6.0 Key Lime Pie is the latest rumor milling around Google’s mobile OS, just days after excitement began bubbling up around Android 5.0, the Jelly Bean release expected to connect Android devices beyond the smartphone and tablet.  We still don’t have a vivid picture of either Android iteration, but what’s more fun than speculation? As the world guesses at what the next Android version would be, some wonder what Google’s underlying strategy is, and how they’ll fix the OS mess.

Despite the lack of details on Jelly Bean, there’s already word of an upcoming device released by Asus.

“ASUS is very close to Google, so once they have Android 5.0 I think there will be a high possibility that we will be the first wave to offer the Jelly Bean update,” Benson Lin, Asus Corporate Vice President, said.

Despite the minimal details on these upcoming versions of Android, whatever they may be called, we’re reminded of Android 4.0, the current edition of Google’s mobile OS, still sluggish on device installs.  It’s a glaring opportunity to bring up the question of fragmentation, a problem Google’s been dealing with since its 2008 launch.  In an ongoing struggle to compete with iOS, Android’s mobile operating war is one of distribution and connectedness.

Certainly, iOS launches a new OS version every year, but a limited number of devices simplifies Apple’s mobile software distribution.  Android’s strength is also its weakness, with a range of devices running its software.  The responsibility of distributing Android is spread across several parties, from Google to Samsung to AT&T.

Android’s reached a point of needed consolidation, across the mobile stack and OEMs.  The open nature of Android has benefitted the OS in its initial growth period, but it’s clear Google’s strategy must mature.  Many were hoping to see signs of maturation at MWC last week, but Google Chairman Eric Schmidt merely hinted at Android’s future releases.  The pending acquisition of Motorola lent to high expectations for some joint releases with Android 4.0 or Jelly Bean, though disappointment came again when Motorola warned that a fully integrated offering couldn’t possibly have come so quickly.

The OS mess has caused plenty of trouble for Motorola’s competitors as well.  Their rivalry has created a flooded market, diverse in software, hardware and retailer.

“The new version number creates new devices, which saturates the market with Android devices and drowning out other potential smartphone choices in store,” said a post on Forbes.  “It services the conveyor belt of new devices which are ‘a bit better than the one from six months ago’ and keeps people buying. Ultimately that’s what Google need to make their core advertising business work in mobile. As many people buying anything that has Android in it, to deliver them as many eyeballs as humanly possible.”

But if you want to test the latest Android version but you don’t want to risk the life of your precious Android device, you can install the Android x86 to turn your netbook into an Android powered gadget. Android x86 comes with all the essential apps like a browser, Gmail, Google+, and a handful of third-party apps.

The Android x86 has been tested on the following platforms: ASUS Eee PCs/Laptops, Viewsonic Viewpad 10, Dell Inspiron Mini Duo, Samsung Q1U, Viliv S5, and the Lenovo ThinkPad x61 Tablet.

The interplay between device and Android software is a complicated one, but it’s something Google will have to control on some level, if its end strategy is to work in their favor.  Whether Motorola is the answer they’ve been looking for remains to be seen, but anything more streamlined would be of benefit to Android.

Contributors: Mellisa Tolentino