Everyone knows that Android has been heading down the dark path of fragmentation with every handset maker wanting to put their own spin on Android. HTC started this trend with their Sense UI on the HTC Hero and has been applying their UI to every Android device they have manufactured since. Motorola followed suit with Blur, the multi-hyper-connected UI for Android, making it easy for all your messages and social networks to be aggregated in to one list. And others are starting to do the same to try and distinguish their devices as being a better Android experience.
This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if all this extra stuff didn’t slow down the progress of Android. Companies have to put in a lot of time and money to produce their own version of Android, so when Google releases a new branch of code for the OS the handset manufacturers need to start from the ground up again and recreate their UI for that specific version of Android. This is why we don’t see 1.6 or 2.0 on the Cliq or any of HTC’s Android Devices. What kind of implications this will have towards Android is yet to be seen.
Now it seems that fragmentation is not only limited to the Android OS itself, but also in the distribution of Android Applications. Device manufacturers are planning on including their own portals for selling applications.
Companies like Motorola have announced plans to create their own “Android Market” for their devices. Motorola calls their portal SHOP4APPS and it is a Web based app store where you can browse its content much like any other with Free and Paid categories with many sub-categories. They will also be offering this in the form of an application which you can download from the site when it is up and running. And we have already seen a few other app stores out there like Archos’ Appslib and the newly created Storeoid from General Mobile. Archos says that they could not include Google’s Application Market because they had altered the software to support High-Def content and the applications wouldn’t play nice with their device.
All these new app stores aren’t necessarily a bad thing for consumers. It gives you more choices from where you would like to get your content, which could also spur more competition and may possibly drive the cost of these cheap products even lower. But what does it mean for the developer? Developers want their applications to be available for all to purchase. Yet they may not want to commit their resources to all the different app stores. I may be incorrect but if these new application stores are like Google’s or Apple’s then the developer will most likely need to pay a registration fee and quite possibly a yearly fee to have their applications hosted in these app stores.
The massive fragmentation of Android Application distribution may or may not help Android in the end. We shall see in time what its effects will have mainly on the developing community of Android. In the end, trying to find the right Android Application could end up being just as hard as trying find the right Blackberry application.