Blog Post

Android’s Fragmentation Won’t Fly in the Mobile Enterprise

Google (s goog) is hoping to become a major player in the mobile enterprise with Honeycomb, an updated version of Android built specifically for tablets. But it will have to fix its fragmentation problem if it wants to compete in an increasingly crowded market.

The Internet giant recently warned that it will withhold early access to Android upgrades for partners who fail to get Mountain View’s approval for tweaks to the software. That move followed March’s introduction of new tools designed to help developers address older versions of its operating system and bring some of Honeycomb’s features to smartphones.

Android’s fragmentation has yet to affect most consumers (as evidenced by Android’s expanding share of the U.S. smartphone OS market), but developers have definitely taken notice: addressing the entire base of Android handsets with a single build is a tall task for some. A whopping 86 percent of Android developers said fragmentation is at least something of a problem, according to new research from Robert W. Baird & Co.; 55 percent believe it’s a “meaningful” or “huge” problem.

Fragmentation can be merely annoying when you’re using a smartphone’s virtual slingshot to kill pigs with fowl in Angry Birds, but Google has its eye on the enterprise tablet market, and those problems are simply unacceptable when it comes to business applications. Even more importantly, those snafus are far more troubling on the tablets the newest version of Android was developed for, because they provide a more immersive experience. A graphical error becomes much more obvious on the larger screen of a tablet, for instance, and user interface glitches are more irritating.

Android’s growing worldwide distribution ensures that developers of games and other genres of entertainment apps will continue to churn out titles for the platform regardless of its fragmentation problems. But the options for mobile enterprise developers are quickly expanding beyond the iPad (s aapl) to include RIM’s (s rimm) upcoming PlayBook and Hewlett Packard’s (s hpq) TouchPad, which will launch this summer. So to lure developers of business-targeted offerings on tablets, Google will need to demonstrate that applications can run effectively and consistently across all of those Android tablets that are coming to market. For more thoughts about why Google must solve Android’s fragmentation to conquer the mobile enterprise, please see my weekly column at GigaOM Pro (sub. required).

Image source: Flickr user zipckr.

7 Responses to “Android’s Fragmentation Won’t Fly in the Mobile Enterprise”

  1. Neoterix


    As far as I have seen, in enterprise, they choose one standard set of hardware, make sure whatever core applications run on it, and then use that same hardware (invest in) for some fixed period of time. This “problem” is the same problem that has existed on PCs or whatever computing platform enterprise has used for the past several decades. Hardware and software advance and companies have to get rid of the old stuff after some time.

    Instead of moving linearly with how both hardware/software advances, they move in steps because it is more cost-efficient that way.

    • Nicholas

      I agree!

      This isn’t a problem. It is an opportunity. As I commented earlier today on the Rubin post, Google’s role isn’t to create Sony’s gaming platform. It is to provide a consistent base. That poses problems for Google’s products, but provides excellent opportunities for everybody of handled correctly.

      Does corporate want a camera? No! Hence BBs not having cameras. Wake up and smell the opportunity in corporate tablets!

  2. James Hoosac

    Oddly, a lot of the top 20 cell phones with highest radiation levels are Android phones. 9 of them (and top 3) are Motorola phones. Which side of my brain do I want to fry when I’m on the phone?

  3. Bored SysAdmin

    Well, RIM platform is also fragmented, doesn’t stop them from dominating mobile enterprise (for smart phones)
    Tablets is whole new ball game – maybe they have no place in enterprise at all… (except limited use)

    • Colin Gibbs

      That’s absolutely true, BSA — in fact, every mobile OS is fragmented to one degree or another. But I think it’s undeniable that Android’s problems are far more serious than most. Those must be addressed if Android is to gain any real traction in the enterprise.