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Google and Motorola: The developers’ view

Google’s decision to buy Motorola Mobility is a shrewd move. The level of device and software fragmentation has shown Google’s struggle to control the Android hardware ecosystem since it launched. From a development point of view, fragmentation issues have prevented end users from receiving the same level of user experience that you find on iOS or Windows Phone. Hardware fragmentations have meant that developers must programme apps to utilise the multitude of hardware buttons, keyboard layouts, SoC selections, screen sizes and resolutions in order to work across the wide variety of Android devices.

Google’s decision to buy Motorola Mobility is a shrewd move. The level of device and software fragmentation has shown Google’s struggle to control the Android hardware ecosystem since it launched with.

From a development point of view, fragmentation issues have prevented end users from receiving the same level of user experience that you find on iOS or Windows Phone. Hardware fragmentations have meant that developers must programme apps to utilise the multitude of hardware buttons, keyboard layouts, SoC selections, screen sizes and resolutions in order to work across the wide variety of Android devices.
This is the multiplied thanks to software fragmentation – selecting which ‘desert’ version of Android to optimise for, and which handsets is a headache for developers across the world.
Security has also been a concern for Android. This has prevented it from being fully adopted as enterprise devices in the same way that BlackBerry and the iPhone have.
This move to have further control the hardware could well be an indicator that Google is planning on asserting more control over the wider ecosystem helping to illuminate the security issues.
All of this could well signal Google’s recognition of these issues. Following Apple and Microsoft’s strategy of having control of device and OS design could be a real boost for the quality of development on Android.
As someone who works with big organisations on integrating mobile into their IT systems, this news certainly appears to be a positive step for Android development.
The threat, of course, will be that Motorola devices will be able to stay one step ahead of the Android pack, something Google has taken steps to deny.
In their blog post, Google have said that they will keep Android as an open platform, though you have to (and some of them appear to have) wonder if its Android partners such as HTC, Sony Ericson, Samsung, LG and Acer will remain committed, especially if Motorola is seen to get earlier software updates and support.
Many have questioned whether this is about hardware, or if it is about gaining control over Motorola’s patent portfolio to combat the continued steps by Google’s competitors to restrict devices. Only time will tell what Google is really up to.

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