The forking of Android into phone and tablet varieties–versions 2.x for the former, 3.x for the latter–is a bit of a strange move. With tablets launching in Q1 running Android 3.0, Honeycomb, and phones likely launching in Q3 running Android 2.4, Ice Cream Sandwich, consumers are very likely to get confused about version numbers, code names, release chronology, and updates. No to mention that more fragmentation–a significant problem caused by customization and slow/non-existent updates by OEMs–will now be compounded by a major split evident in the software before it even leaves Google’s servers.
In Google’s defense, the distinction between phone and tablet versions of Android was apparently made with regard for application developers and the desire to minimize obstacles in writing software for the OS, such as the need to create multiple display elements for various flavors of the UI. But why not start a new flavor of the operating system called Android Tablet with its own version number and an underlying code that remains intact and connected to the the Android core, receiving updates along with the phone version of Android? It’s essentially an issue of semantics in reference to the software. I think this is a legitimate question, and I’m sure software developers could post a host of other legitimate questions that might undermine Google’s strategy here. My hope since learning of the fork has been that it is a temporary solution, devised to quickly address the promulgation of tablets in the mobile market, and that the fork would by unified again at some point.
Tech Radar recently asked Google’s Director of Engineering for Android, David Burke, about the situation, and he said that Honeycomb is a tablet operating system at the moment, but that the company would like to reunite version numbers again at some point, adding:
“I think that coming together is a good idea. What we’re trying to do here I make a base platform that’s so good, that others only need to add native elements in their core areas.
“We wanted to make the whole UI better – it shouldn’t be necessary to customise the texting widget with the Honeycomb UI.
“We don’t think one size fits all with Android, but sometimes changes [people make to the UI] miss the point – then again, sometimes it amazes us.”
So it sounds like Google is probably aiming towards unification, though they seem to be feeling things out as they go…as we all are. Let’s just hope they can bring these two distinct versions of Android back together quickly, and that folks who buy gadgets powered by the OS in the interim aren’t lost in update limbo.
Via Tech Radar