Monday Grok: Android has a problem with OS fragmentation

But not Apple as Fanboys trump customers every time

When Grok looks in the mirror, an aging, angry stranger with grey streaks in his receding hair looks back at him in reverse. But getting old isn't all bad, though. Children are frightened of you for starters, which leads to a quieter life. And when you read the tech media, you really have seen it all before.

Over the weekend for instance, Techcrunch blogger, Jon Evans, finally decided he had enough of instinctively defending Android as a development platform, and conceded that operating system fragmentation was truly a pain in the butt. Evans argues that while on many measures, the complexities of developing apps for Android and IOS are generally on par. He noticed the gap starting to widen once he started using moderately elaborate graphics. And the culprit — operating system fragmentation. There are just too damn many generations of Android out there.

This kind of fragmentation is eerily reminiscent of the Unix world that Grok fell into in the mid-80s where Unix was the great open systems hope, depending of course on which flavor of Unix you chose. That was a slightly different problem, as it was indeed the flavors of Unix rather than just dot.x.versions causing the grief. And it was a problem that continued to bedevil IT departments, until Sauron forged Linux in the fires of Mount Doom.

Unfortunately for Google, enslaving all the peoples of Middle Earth in a new darkness was a doddle compared to getting all those Android devices up to speed.

Evans points out, "Ice Cream Sandwich is by all accounts very nice; but what good does that do app developers, when according to Google's own stats, 30 per cent of all Android devices are still running an OS that is 20 months old? I sure would have liked to stop caring about Android 2.2 bugs fixed in 2.3. It would have been awfully nice to be able to use the animation libraries from Android 3.0 ... to say nothing of Ice Cream Sandwich’s features; but at this rate Android developers aiming for a mass audience will have to wait another year, if not longer, before they can actually build apps that take advantage of all the shiny new features."

In contrast, as Evans notes, "more than two-thirds of IOS users had upgraded to IOS 5 a mere three months after its release."

More of the same

Speaking of having seen it all before, this morning the <i>Fin Review</i> ran the line that the global slowdown will hit IT jobs, therefore alleviating the pressure of crippling IT skill shortages. Well, that’s half right. IT skills shortages will unwind, except in the bits where everyone wants to find workers — mobility, e-commerce, Web apps and the like. Sure, if you need someone to hack together a bit of maintenance code for your server farm then that might be a bit easier, but good luck finding developers who can successfully push your shiny new idea out onto an iPad, or make Siri sing for your customers. (The Fin has helpfully unlocked the article so you don't have to pay. And they've turned off the Digital Rights Management on so none of your friends have to pay either.)

Speaking of more of the same...

Get ready for the next round of iPad hysteria, with <i>Bloomberg</i> reporting (very scant) details about the new device, saying it “will sport a high-definition screen, run a faster processor and work with next-generation wireless networks, according to three people familiar with the product."

So to recap: Better screen, faster processor, works with 4G. Yep, that was worth getting out of bed at 5.15am with a champagne hangover to read...

<i>Bloomberg</i> quotes its sources saying manufacturing production is ramping up with full volumes expected to be reached in February, and that the tablet will use "a quad-core chip, an enhancement that lets users jump more quickly between applications."

The iPad 3 is expected to go on sale in March, and the cynical amongst you might consider that the leak looks just a little contrived.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. He has been recruiting IT staff for 15 years. It never gets any easier, or any cheaper. And it's worse now that it is his own money he's spending to build iPhone and iPad apps.

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