Is Android fragmented by design?

When I wrote about the absence of copyright enforcement on the Android marketplace, I was trying to point out that Google did not have the interests of copyright owners at heart. This attitutde is also apparent in many ways from the absence of desktop sync for Android (and hence the absence of discovery or acquisition of commercial media) to the absence of protection for the app developer.

Moreover, recently Google TV was blocked from all major US TV content and Google faced litigation from copyright holders in print publications and before that for YouTube infringements and before that from newspaper publishers for Google News’ unlicensed reuse of their content.

Therefore it should not come as a surprise the following revelation that Android lacks any common DRM framework.

The hurdle has been the lack of a generic and complete platform security and content protection mechanism available for Android. The same security issues that have led to piracy concerns on the Android platform have made it difficult for us to secure a common Digital Rights Management (DRM) system on these devices.

Setting aside the debate around the value of content protection and DRM, they are requirements we must fulfill in order to obtain content from major studios for our subscribers to enjoy. Although we don’t have a common platform security mechanism and DRM, we are able to work with individual handset manufacturers to add content protection to their devices.

Unfortunately, this is a much slower approach and leads to a fragmented experience on Android, in which some handsets will have access to Netflix and others won’t.

via Netflix blog.

But the absence is not just oversight. DRM is, by its nature, proprietary and, by necessity, “closed”. DRM ultimately includes “secrets” which would always be revealed in open source. If Android is to be open source, then it cannot include a DRM framework.

This leaves the problem of content protection up to the device vendors who must license schemes from various third parties.

The upshot is more fragmentation.

As John Gruber points out,

More and more, I’m convinced that Android isn’t a single platform. It’s a meta-platform upon which handset makers build their own platforms.

In other words, Android fragmentation seems to be not only impossible to rein in, but it may actually be by design. Google is doing nothing to stop the centrifugal force that is building up in its ecosystem. They have neither the means nor the incentives to control the spiraling.

  • Mark Newton

    Google may argue that it's not evil but, this article demonstrates, neither is it good. Schmidt wants us to think Google is altruistic, but in fact is grossly apathetic. In the modern age, people expect businesses to be good corporate citizens.

    • Relwal

      Good corporate citizens don't create secret, closed infrastructures to support and enforce the policies of the MPAA and RIAA. Google correctly recognizes that that is not their job.

      • Hey, Lawler! They do if it brings a good customer experience. You watch TV? Theatre released movies? Pandora? Redbox? VOD? Long long list not here? It's easy to sound superior when you've chosen the wrong platform! It's all you've got left.

        Modularity leads to fragmentation; inter dependence leads to integration. Both don't add value.

        But what IS OGLE up to?

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        "Secret, closed infrastructures"? Do you envision Apple as a secret society with a handshake required for club entrance? CREATING CONTENT COSTS MONEY. Writers, actors, musicians, producers, transportation, electricity, directors, editors, and marketing to name a few costs. The individuals and companies that create the stuff we consume are humans trying to make a living. Deliberately giving it away without licensing is not only unethical, but typically illegal.

        Google has quite consistently chosen to favor the user over the content generator. I believe they do this for two main reasons:

        1) It makes Google's services better. Why bother subscribing to online news when Google will aggregate everything for free? This drives the massive volume required to make the Advertising-only model function.

        2) Precedent. If Google makes an exception for one medium by showing respect for content owners, they open themselves up to lawsuits from every media company on the planet. At this point, their consistency is as important as their logic.

        Apple chose the opposite approach. Instead of ripping the content on behalf of their users, Apple chose to pay the people who create the stuff we consume. This approach is the ONLY way that the traditional media companies will embrace electronic distribution. It is the reason that Netflix is responsible for 20% of all bandwidth use during prime time hours in America. It is the reason that Hulu exists.

        Perhaps you don't like the pricing or the file formats, but give me a break. Apple isn't enforcing the policies of trade organizations, they are respecting the laws of the governments where their products are sold.

  • MattF

    You work for a mobile carrier. Your boss's boss's boss orders you to create a "DRM Framework" to enable "Netflix streaming" without, apparently, knowing or caring what either of those phrases really means. You google "DRM Framework" and find ten pages of theoretical proposals. You feel dizzy and have a headache.

  • Alexkhan2000

    Yes, I agree that Google has no intent to control the very ecosystem/platform they've unleashed. It's clear that Google wants a chaotic free-for-all on the Internet space. What they don't want is a large sliver of that space being controlled by the likes of Apple, Microsoft or anyone else for that matter. Google doesn't want control. Google only wants the "free" space on which they can sell ads and the more "open" and "freer" it is, the more advantageous their position. Google's very goal is to break down the proprietary control of "competing" ecosystems and content owners.

    Google's business model and its strategy to execute on that model is indeed a major threat to all traditional tech and media content companies that own IP and copyrighted material – from software companies to TV/movie studios, etc. Google is leveraging the very power of the Internet, which is owned by no one. It is actually a very well thought-out strategy of profiting from the chaos and fragmentation that they hope will overwhelm the efforts of "closed" or integrated ecosystem players like Apple, Microsoft, Nokia or anyone else – even the likes of major backend players like IBM, HP, Oracle, SAP, etc.

    Meanwhile, Google's hardware partners (the Android phone/tablet/TV vendors) who don't have the means to take on the integrated players with their own software ecosystem/platform offerings are getting more and more deeply entangled in Google's sticky and ever expanding web as mere commodity providers from which they have no means to escape. They're essentially pawns who do the dirty work of undercutting Google's chief platform adversaries and then getting virtually nothing in return. Ditto for the software developers on the Google platform…

    Google's aim is to commoditize the entire Internet infrastructure on which they can profit from through their search monopoly. Taking a page or two from Microsoft's playbook which Gates used so effectively during the 80's and the 90's to dominate the PC industry, Google is using its search monopoly position to render all other proprietary players irrelevant through their use of "open" source software and the marketing of "free" services as search, YouTube, Picasa, Gmail, Google Docs, Maps, etc. How can consumers argue against "free" stuff?

  • threeblackdots

    DRM is entirely possible on Android… it has it included on many applications in the marketplace.

    • asymco

      Of course DRM is possible, but as Netflix point out, they have to negotiate each implementation with each device vendor separately. What if the device vendor is a small Chinese manufacturer who does not have a DRM negotiation department? The user experience will differ by device and carrier. Unlike in Windows (which is often cited as the future of Android) the user has no guarantee that any app or service will work on their device.

      • Chris

        Enter text right here!Do you actually ever use iTunes to know that iTunes has disabled DRM since April of 2009?

      • famousringo

        iTunes has only removed DRM from music. Videos are still DRMed and books have a choice whether the publisher wishes to use DRM or not. I'm sure Apple would like to drop DRM from all iTunes content, but they aren't going to do it without the blessing of the content creators.

      • Chris

        Music is the revenue core of iTunes. Apple did tell the studios if they don't wan't to follow the no DRM policy, they should get out of iTunes. Many did remove their music, though many also eventually returned.

        DRM on an open source platform like Android is like having a locker room with a single common key shared to all its users. It defeats the purpose. If you include DRM as a fundmental part of the open source platform, you would need to reveal the source code for it.

        The hooks for DRM support is there. Each device manufacturer has to work out their own local implementation of DRM, just like everyone is supposed to have different keys for their lockers.

  • yet another steve

    Google's financial interest lies in a world of free ad supported content. Whether by design or through evolution, this is exactly right for them.

    An ad supported world is a choice for consumers. It's clearly wrong for everyone else in the ecosystem.

    It's a major reason why (though far from the only one), as an indy developer, the mere fact that more Android phone activations outpace iOS phone activations, isn't enough to make it a more attractive platform.

    Apple has created frictionless, piracy free (the vast majority of users are never going to jailbreak) commerce… while Google offers the scraps from their ad business.

    As a user: Apple has also shown how cheap software can be… and I very much prefer being the customer as opposed to the thing being sold.

    • Relwal

      Fact check: Just how is Android not "a more attractive platform"? I (and many other developers I know) beg to differ.

      • EricE

        Is Android more attractive for technical reasons (mainly you don't like Apple dictating rules to you) or because you are making more money with Android?

        I suspect Android's popularity with programmers is more for the former than the latter. If people can live on ideals alone, more power to them….

      • yet another steve

        I'm not one to hijack a thread and get into a holy platform war. Obviously Android has plenty of developers. I just have no desire to become one.

        Germane to this thread, I like working in an ecosystem focused on keeping content as something that has value. And I have a great deal of mistrust towards Google (not just Android) when it comes to preserving content value. Not because they're evil but because it's the logic of their business. Google engages in a lot of activities, but from a business perspective, they sell ads. Period.

      • kevin

        From a business perspective, Apple primarily sells devices. But the difference with Google, is that Apple recognizes the users of those devices desire to have lots of good content. So Apple has chosen to make it easier for most content creators/owners to make their valuable content available at prices the consumer might be interested in paying.

  • Duncan

    @Mark Newton: "In the modern age, people expect businesses to be good corporate citizens."

    Actually, sorry to sound cynical but in THIS modern age I don't expect businesses to be anything other than self-serving organizations who push to the edge of legality while prioritizing profits for the shareholders and executives. The idea of a 'corporate citizen' is so ambiguous and contrary to living human beings ('actual' citizens) as to be meaningless.

    If Schmidt or anyone else promotes Google (or any other company for that matter, including Apple) as 'good' or 'friendly', one should resist the temptation to anthropomorphize the company with such qualities. They are instead completely artificial constructs that reflect the laws and profit motives of those who make them up.

    • asymco

      Corporations are neither good nor citizens. They just are.

      • berult

        Corporate success is indeed moral agnostic. Corporations can perform well with unscrupulous and cynical business practices. They can also deliver great results standing tall on moral High Grounds.

        Greedy customers breed greedy service providers, and the reverse proposition is obviously true. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's Views on the matter of Corporate Citizenry, a business model always defer in the end to its clients' ethical buying practices. Unless of course it sets its sight on subverting self-determinated ethical choices and nurturing, acting upon its clients lack of introspection.

        Corporations are neither good nor bad, neither are consumers. However, ethics guides us all through the buy/sell market process and colors us with shades of indelible behavioral trademarks. Google is neither good nor bad, nor am I. We are what or who we are.

        But Google's ethics and mine don't share common grounds. Apple and I just do.

  • More and more it appears a fundamental difference between Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) is that Apple values content, and, yes, making money from it. Google wants to put all content on an equal footing, with a value gravitating toward zero, and then build an ad platform on top of that.

    • davel

      this is exactly right

    • asymco

      Apple's placement of content at the core of their business model is only a reflection of their treatment of their own products as content.

      • Jake

        Enter text right here! Strange comment. You do know you can sync pirated songs and video into your iPhone or iPod, do you? Theory does not match reality.

      • asymco

        You know a Volvo can break the speed limit on any road. That does not make Volvo any less committed to safety.

      • Jake

        Of course Volvo is committed to safety. Otherwise no one would buy their cars.

        If you sell iPods with up to a 160gb storage capacity to a teen or young adult demographic, you figure out, please, what a several thousands of songs would cost if you honestly paid 99 cents for each. It is most interesting to see a device aimed to a youth demographic where much of whom can't even legally have a credit card, which is what you need to buy songs online from iTunes.

      • kevin

        – Apple's marketing is to young adults – there's not a teen/youth in any tv commercial or billboard or anything related to iPod. It's just your imagination.
        – The 160gb capacity came after video was possible.
        – Today's marketed iPods have a max capacity of 64gb. Apple doesn't bother to advertise the iPod classic. They even pretended it didn't exist at the September rollout.
        – You don't need a credit card to buy songs online from iTunes. Ever heard of gift cards? You can buy those with cash.

      • Jake

        For a long time, gift cards didn't exist. For a long time.

        Please figure out how much it would just to have even 4gb worth of paid music would cost. Put that on the back of even a college student.

        Even if their so called "marketing" is for young adults, their censorship of the App Store—porn, sexy material and so on—-is clearly aimed for sanitizing content for a much younger audience.

      • asymco

        You're still confusing the notion of selling somebody the option to do something vs. compelling them to do it.

        You are stating that the presence of an option of DRM infringement using Apple's equipment implies a disregard for copyrights by Apple.

        Apple sells tools and storage. These things can be used in various ways including for breaking the law. That does not make Apple liable or impinge on its stated goals of obeying the law.

      • Marcos El Malo

        To amplify your point, when Apple removed DRM from music content in the iTunes store, it was after a protracted negotiation with the content owners. Contrast this with Google's "negotiation", after legal action has been initiated. I'm not making Apple's motivations to be holy, clearly they stand to profit from their actions. But Apple makes efforts in good faith so that all parties stand to benefit to some degree. Google does not act in good faith and doesn't care if content owners benefit or not.

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        Your logic is as follows:

        Apple makes hard drive-based iPods — Apple censors material — Apple distributes (sells) content — Apple markets towards young people — Apple is actively encouraging piracy.

        WalMart (the world's largest retailer) sells guns — They don't sell porn — They do sell children's clothing and toys — Does this mean that they are trying to tempt children into the purchase of weapons?

        When I was a teenager (well before digital downloads of music), I spent nearly every penny I had on music. I bought more albums when I was 14-18 than I have in total since that time. I had little disposable income, but little need to spend money outside of hobbies.

        Times have changed with the availability of peer networks and download sites. Still, your assumption that theft is the only possible use for a HDD player bothers me; it is highly derivative logic, and misanthropic at its core. Should I not be allowed to consume my full collection of music because of your arbitrary definition of reasonable storage volume? Should I not be allowed to listen in uncompressed formats? What about video – are portable devices to be limited to a few hours of capacity? We have a 160GB iPod for use in the car, exclusively to play Disney-type movies for our young children through the in-dash video system.

        When is the last time you saw a commercial targeting the iPod classic? The only reason it exists is because customers like me still demand large-volume devices. It is a niche product. What happens when they figure out a way to get 1TB into flash based devices at a reasonable price – should we call the police to the homes of every purchaser under a banner of reasonable suspicion?

      • thumbmaster

        You're ignoring the fact that the majority of iPod users rip their music from their existing CD collection. I have over a thousand CDs and I've only bought a handful of songs from iTunes. Does that make me a pirate? You also ignore the fact that Seagate and Western Digital sell 2TB hard drives to consumers. Are you suggesting that they are helping us pirate movies and music? Your argument is illogical in a technologically progressing society.

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      Very well said. You win for both brevity and impartiality.

    • unhinged

      I would contend that Google is testing content for popularity rather than quality – while the two _can_ be synonymous, I think we all agree that they are not _always_ the same. Google shares the revenue using AdSense, at 68% (roughly the same as Apple's 70%).

      The way I see it, Google is happy to pay for popular content that brings lots of eyeballs, because the more visitors they get the more click-throughs they get. They _don't_ want to pay for unpopular content, because they see the cost of hosting it (for video, at least) as payment enough. This turns content creators into entrepreneurs, if you will, accepting all the risk for their work – they never know if or how much remuneration they will receive.

      Apple, I believe, recognizes that content creators (like most people) want to appeal to time-poor, cash-rich folks, who are more likely to make an impulse buying decision. Popularity still comes into it, but Apple's model is I think more conducive to manufacturing "hits" – just look at the Angry Birds fiasco for Android.

      As an investor, which model would you choose? That depends on your risk profile, and everyone's is different. I believe that the majority of investors are conservative and that is why Apple's platform will continue to be the more successful in terms of attracting content – it is viewed as more likely to provide a return. With Android, Google is trying to keep the web as the platform, and on the web the most popular content will result in the biggest hits IF PEOPLE CAN FIND IT. Apple's using a "curated" experience to help people find it, Google thinks they can use search to do the same thing.

      For what it's worth, my money's on Apple. I think history has shown that asking for money upfront results in greater long-term profitability – even Google follows that approach; it gets paid when someone clicks on a link, not when someone buys the end product.

      • I always hated popularity contests.

      • Marcos El Malo

        Ethics aside, one of the advantages of the investor is that they don't have to choose any one strategy. They can invest in companies with opposing or competing strategies and hedge their bets. They can use different criteria on a case by case basis: They might invest in company A because they like the strategy, they can invest in company B because they like management, and they can invest in company C because C is more innovative.

      • dchu220

        The biggest difference between the two companies that I would keep an eye on is the way they approach commercializing their business models. (By commercializing, I mean how they let other companies build business models around their offerings)

        To me, I see Apple as taking the approach of trying to build models where other industries can make money from their products. Whether it's third party case makers or indie app store developers, a lot of people are making money from Apple.

        Google on the other hand, in my opinion, takes the approach that we have created a system for you and you need to conform to it.

        It's pretty obvious which approach will be more successful attracting third parties. As long as they can keep creating value for Apple's ecosystem, I believe Apple will remain at the forefront profit wise.

  • Pingback: asymco | Is Android fragmented by design?()

  • Is the Fragmented by Design good for Android/Google…or not?
    Sounds like it should be bad for the ecosystem, but so far …no signs of slowing it down.


  • Relwal

    I applaud Google for keep the MPAA out of their mobile OS. They not only talk the talk. They walk the walk.

    DRM and "content management" deals appropriately belong between the device vendor and carrier and Netflix.

    • asymco

      How would a small device maker from Taiwan compete in this scenario?

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      Apple IS the device vendor. You seem to be missing this distinction in your posts to this page. If you feel the MPAA has a place, but only with the device vendor, then the Apple and Google models are already consistent with your worldview.

      It seems to me though that you are more upset that you can't get all your movies for free, without ads, on a generic format across all devices. It will never happen legally. If you want to do it personally, have at it. But don't expect the big players to hand it to you on a silver platter.

    • maddoguk69

      "They not only talk the talk. They walk the walk."

      What utter bunk.

      Google is only "open and free" about the things that are not a direct part of their revenue stream. Try asking Google for the source code to their search algorithm (I believe I'm paraphrasing Gruber here) and see how "open" and "free" they are with the secret sauce that supports all of their ad income.

  • Iphoned

    I believe Samsung, Mot, and HTC will eventually start charging Google fees for default placement of google services on their phones. Or Microsoft will gladly pay to relace. So Google will end up being stuck with the Android dev costs amd IP liabilities without real benefits. They really haven’t thought this one through.

    • David

      You have not thought the fact that even Steve keeps Google services on the iPhone for good reason.

      • asymco

        Google does pay Apple the the privilege of being kept there by Steve. Some have claimed the amount to be well north of $100 million per year (and this also may include placement of Google search on the safari toolbar). Placement of a service on a device is called "distribution" and it's not free. Placement of Google services in an Android device is simply a matter of convenience for most vendors as they don't have viable alternatives, but some, like Verizon do swap Google out of Android. An Android implementation typically owes nothing to Google though in some cases there is a contractual relationship depending on certain guarantees like placement of services

      • David

        What Google pays Apple is a commission on search revenue. That is not the same.

        Maps is a central component of any smartphone today. In the Apple ecosystem, iOS location casting maps need Google Maps to function.

        Does Google pay Apple to bundle YouTube app? No.

        Without Google Services, it is doubtful you have value on your device to sell.

      • asymco

        I would be surprised that Google did not pay for YouTube and Maps placement on the iPhone. It's more likely that the services are all part of a bundle deal. It's also very likely that Microsoft bid aggressively for the same deal. (see:

  • Vijaykbhat

    Google and apple or Microsoft are on opposite poles in there opperating philosophies
    As to open verses closed.neither is totally right or wrong bur bring in their best in them.
    And creat a awareness and then choice and then balance.Google seems to have done
    Most to Internet than any other company and instrumental in advancing the new paradigm while most of established companies (Microsoft, Apple, Media companies etc) are operating with old mindset tinkered at the fringes.

    • Alexkhan2000

      Ultimately, it's not about what is right or wrong but what kind of intrinsic value each ecosystem/platform provides. Consumers will make a choice based on what they perceive to be a better value. The term "value" doesn't necessarily mean that one ecosystem is cheaper or offers more choices and features than the others although these things are important. The ease of use, consistency of user experience, look and feel, industrial design, security and other "intangibles" must be considered in the value quotient as well. Obviously, this is the area in which Apple excels.

      Personally speaking, the Apple ecosystem is much more attractive and useful in that it allows me to simply focus on what I need to get done with the least amount of hassles and headaches. To me, that's worth the premium while others will disagree. I want things as simple and streamlined as possible and do not want to bother with things that add complexity or features I don't need or want. Minimalism is good in that it goes beyond aesthetics of the hardware. It allows one to focus on the content, not the means to get to it.

      But that's just me. If I had to, I'm sure I'll be able to get around in competing ecosystems without too many problems (as I have working with Windows at work for over 20 years), but since I have a choice, I go with Apple. Google's new paradigm is very interesting. I very well understand what they're trying to do and admire their willingness to upend the "classic" business models of the tech industry to their advantage. Google provides a formidable challenge to some very big established "old school" tech companies – from Apple to Microsoft and HP to Oracle – and opportunities for small nimble upstarts focused on the wild wild west that is the converging tech/CE/mobile/web market.

  • Jeroen

    Many good comments here. I think Google's business is selling advertising and they see the future on mobile. Indeed they want to undermine strongly controlled ecosystems like Apple's because a player like Apple can leave them out of the game. Hence the need for Android.

    The additional benefit Android enables is that Google can continue to build the profiles of it's known users also in the mobile space, which as said, is the future. With Google's business model being dependent on advertising and profiling, they have no incentive to limit UI fragmentation.

    They know full well that the OEM's believe they get their differentiation from custom UI's. They allow it and that helps spread the platform and thus prevents Apple and other tightly controlled ecosystems from becoming too dominant.

    They also know that currently the market is about apps, so they manage a well put together and consistent development platform. Again, this just helps spread Android and push back on Apple, MS, and others because there is consumer demand for apps.

    As someone stated before, for Google, DRM does not align with their core business, so they do not implement it. However, developers can implement DRM if they have to to enable their business model.

    In conclusion, I think this is a well thought out strategy. The UI might be fragmented, but the parts that matter to Google's business model are not.

    • Iphoned

      We'll see how well thought out it is once Android device makers start replacing Google services with Microsoft's on Android devices, because Microsoft pays more for the privilege.

      • unhinged

        I think you're missing the point. Google released Android to keep the web as the dominant platform. They want content on the web, where they know that people on mobile devices will still visit it. Having Bing as the default search provider _may_ hurt them, if MS is subtle enough about their page rankings, but for now Google has the AdSense ecosystem that will prove difficult to dislodge.

  • Rob Scott

    We have about 20 Androids phones selling 200 – 500 units per phone. This is obviously way lower than the units we move per phone on Blackberries (+/- 6 models) and/or iPhones (3 options). But Android outsells both Blackberry OS and/or iOS because the sum of all Android phones is higher than the sum of the 6 Blackberries or the 3 iPhones on offer.

    This is good for Android/Google/Android OEMs until you look at distressed/obsolete/slow moving stock. Suddenly Android becomes a very expensive proposition.
    So fragmentation is good for Android and bad for carriers. Android's fragmentation is good for customers as it increases choice.

    My biggest criticism of Apple on their iPhone strategy is that the one style offering is tired and most importantly is costing Apple money (lost sales). We need more choice! Surely Ive can come up with more than one design a year?

    They executed so well with the iPod, which is why I am puzzled by their slowness in the phone business. They had a 3 year lead in software and they squandered it (iOS in phones is at best maintaining share, i.e. not growing it). Android is arguable on par or very close to the iPhone on user experience. The hardware is on par or better for some models. And Apple is still selling one phone and is available only in one colour – black. SMH.

    • Alexkhan2000

      You have to remember that Apple has not been able to keep up with demand, so I think it's a little early to say the lack of variety is costing Apple money in terms of lost sales. Also, having very few SKU items in such high volumes means cost savings in purchases of components and simplicity of operations. Efficiency always saves money.

      I would disagree that fragmentation and a bewildering number of choices is always good for consumers. It reaches a point where consumers have to deal with "option anxiety" and never being sure about the choices they make. Apple may or may not offer more different models of the iPhone as they do with the iPod, but their priority seems to be more about consistent supply and carrier coverage.

      Eventually, I do think Apple will offer more models for both the iPhone and the iPad once they sort out the production and distribution/carrier issues. Apple is a company that focuses on one thing (or a few things) at a time and making sure everything they do enhances the value of their entire ecosystem. What they don't like to do is spread themselves or their product line too thin until they're sure they've exhausted or milked every ounce of their previous efforts.

      • Rob Scott

        I hear you.

      • Rob Scott

        Definition of Lost Sales: Profit foregone because the orders could not be fulfilled for whatever reason.

    • Rob Scott

      What is it that I said that pissed you off so much? So Wink, why don't you tell us what you think of Android fragmentation.

      I think its good for Android/Google/Users and you disagree? If so, why?

      I also think that Apple should offer more options (styles, options, carriers, countries, distributions points, etc), is that what pissed you off? If so, why?

      I believe Apple wasted their lead in phones just like they wasted their lead in GUI in PCs and you disagree? If so, why?

      Apple is losing share in the US and possible Europe. They are barely maintaining unit share world wide and Android is still in fewer countries than the iPhone and it just broke the sub $150 level, meaning more share growth and the expense of Apple and you think that is a good thing?

      You see, you smart ass comment does not help me (or anyone) understand where you are coming from.

      So why don't you comment on the article and if you must offer valid criticism (positive or negative) instead of throwing insults at those you disagree with.

      • Rob Scott

        1 May 2009, John Gruber (a respected Apple pundit) thought that Apple will have more than 1 style of iPhone by end of December 2010.

        You can argue that the old iPhone (iPhone 3GS) is a second style and is cheaper than the current iPhone (iPhone 4) but I do not think that is what he had in mind.

        The issue is not that Apple is bad/stupid, the issue is that I think they have been very slow with increasing options and I believe this cost and is costing them sales.

        I think their exclusive deal with AT&T allowed Android to geminate and grow to the monster it is today, threatening Apple in the process.

      • famousringo

        I don't want to risk sounding like I in anyway endorse Wink's worthless comment or that I think your opinions represent an impossible physical pose, I just want to make a point about marketshare.

        I think the importance of marketshare is being overestimated in the smartphone market. At least at this point. The only reason marketshare is important is because of the network effects it brings. It grants easier access to distribution channels, increases consumer awareness of your product, and in the case of computer products, attracts software developers and other content to your platform which in turn draw more people to your platform.

        Right now, the iPhone doesn't really have any problems that could be solved with more marketshare. Distribution is strong and getting stronger. Any carrier that doesn't have the iPhone, wants to have the iPhone. Consumer awareness is high, with the iPhone enjoying a mindshare that is completely disproportionate to its marketshare. Software development isn't in jeopardy, as the App Store is still estimated to be at least ten times more lucrative than the Android Market. So all other things being equal, Android would need to take 90% of the market to rival iPhone's software market!

        In comparison, Android's fragmentation has certainly helped it attain rapid and widespread distribution, but it actually undermines the network effects of consumer awareness and software development. Android needs all the marketshare it can get to get the market to see these phones as Android devices, rather than as Droids and Desires and Galaxies. Android needs marketshare to entice content providers like Netflix, because they have to work with Verizon or HTC to get their content on Android one slice at a time instead of all at once through Google.

    • gctwnl

      Market Share in a 100% yoy growth market is not that important. In a 100% yoy growth market there is far less competition between players as there is an effort to put non-consumption into consumption. Given that there is not competition between players, it is to be expected that (largely uninformed) non-consumers are (as a group) trying out all options available. Any new even slightly believable option is automatically picked up. This is the trial-and-eror phase of a new industry.

      Then, there is the question if in a time of internet based apps there are many strictly platform based solutions that are going to lock-in people. Microsoft may try to lock-in people to the existing industry monopoly of Exchange (and new monopoly extension SharePoint), but so far iPhone and RIM integration with industry is strong enough and Microsoft is not really playing. Microsoft seems to have its sights set on the consumer instead of their easiest target the industry worker. So, while RIM already has gained a string presence in industry and Apple is slowly getting their as well, Microsoft is trying to move out of industry and into the consumer world (and so is RIM). WIth 100% yoy growth markets, there is not much you can predict with any certainty.

      Maybe this phase is indeed the phase of the model-T Ford. and maybe Apple tries to be the model T for this industry? And Android are all those other car makers with a dizzying array of variability?

  • noogie60

    I think Google is trying to turbocharge commoditization of smartphones. Once every phone (even the cheapie prepaid ones) then Google can truely make their search, gmail and advertising ubiquitus.
    I think they have thought this out – So what if Microsoft pays carriers to put Bing on handsets? it is still losing money hand over fist. If it comes to a war of attrition in mobile search then I think Google will win – not even Microsoft has unlimited resources.

    I think the really interesting joker in the pack is Facebook. Their spat with Google could be the start of a bitter rivalry.
    Facebook has the critical mass in many markets to threaten Google in future online advertising frontiers and how it acts I think will be important.

  • berult

    Android aims to consolidate Internet's scrambled content into a manageable and proprietary entity, so that Google can triangulate information, from the user to Google to third parties, in a coded, unassailable pattern of play. 

    Android milks Internet of its universal chattering chaos; a systemic anonymous noise descrambler for Google's exclusive internal usage. 

    Algorithm to lure them to hive, combs to sort out the lies, and honey for lesting their hide…

    • Joe_Winfield_IL

      Exactly. This is a really good value proposition to the users. Unfortunately, there is growing lash-back among content generators. Murdoch has already pulled all Newscorp (incl. Fox) content from all Google services. The TV players have all backed out of Google TV. Everyone and their brother has sued YouTube. A French court recently held Eric Schmidt personally liable for defamation due to a search result. Many cases have been filed regarding personal data on Streetview of maps.

      Google has the resources to fight these battles, and they have the incentive to keep doing what they are doing. Their market share is increasing, even as the total market expands rapidly. Their resources are all based on volume, so their cash hoard will grow faster than their litigation bills.

      As a user, I love what Google represents. But I continually question the "don't be evil" mantra that drives decisions at the company. It seems that they have defined "evil" to meet their own objectives. I think they believe that any action that benefits users can be categorized as "good," and that any repercussions are justifiable. But the executives strike me as smug when they seem to suggest that profits are a mere byproduct of their good work rather than a result deliberately planned and orchestrated business decisions.

      ES suggested that users don't do anything embarrassing as a way to stay off the search results. He also suggested moving as a way to erase capture of personal information from the StreetView cameras. The press accuse him of being tone-deaf, but I think he knows exactly what he is saying and that these are truly the best responses he can muster to the difficult questions that Google raises. A complete loss of privacy is an acceptable casualty to Google in the march forward.

      • berult

        And to tie in your pertinent thoughts to ethical concerns of mine, ES says implicitly that Privacy is fair game to competitiveness. I believe Facebook concurs with the proposition, hence the fierce and growing competition between these similar business models.

        SJ says, systemically, that hoarding and sheltering Privacy is prima facie essential to competitiveness. I believe very few current business models align de facto with that proposition.

        My faith, and customer's willful corresponding statement, will always rest with inalienable Privacy, and never will it yield to call for modellized moral expediency. We are what we buy and what we sell, and I stand to be appreciated for what I am while I busily do…

  • asymco

    Facebook, or more specifically social media, has a great disruptive potential. How it will play out in mobile is unclear as it's an over-arching communications platform. Social has the potential to disrupt search and also email and IM and messaging in general. The strange thing to me was always why Google had to enter the mobile OS space since they never had any trouble with distribution for their services. It was a purely pre-emptive attack against what may have turned out to be a phantom threat. In that logic, Facebook should not have to worry about distribution and hence would not need to be in the systems software/hardware business. FB will find its business model some day but I don't see it being selling injection moulded plastic and bent metal (which is where Google, company nominally in the cloud business, thinks it needs to be.)

    • sha

      "why Google had to enter the mobile OS space since they never had any trouble with distribution for their services"

      Given that Brin/Page bought Android on a whim without Schmidt's knowledge, I would say "because this guy's project sounds fun, and let's determine a business model later"

  • WaltFrench

    Surprised that I see not one mention of the exception to the rule: Flash. Many developers, in raging against Apple, cite the DRM mechanisms embedded into Flash as a critical issue not available in HTML5. And that sure seems to be the reason that sites such as the WSJ use it: to make sure that their expensive video stays either behind a paywall or at least associated with a client-smart ad.

    Yet somehow, Google found a way for Flash DRM to go onto Android.

    So I don't think the BS about openness holds any water at all. It was never anything more than an expedient marketing line building on astroturfed outrage against Apple's App Store curation, a standard business move to denigrate a clear competitive advantage of Apple's.

    Does anybody here think that Netflix didn't ask Google whether it could do a deal like Adobe's, allowing a proprietary mechanism to be "supported" by Android, but magically, not part of it? Think these Netflix guys are utter idiots? Google, in its interest of finding competitive advantage vis-à-vis Apple, is picking winners and losers. Sorry, Mr. Hastings, but we don't give enough of a damn about Netflix. People ask, we'll say "it's proprietary, not ubiquitous enough" when we mean, "nothing in it for us, just for our customers who like to watch videos instead of YouTube or Google TV. Come back to us with a plan for a PR war against Apple or Microsoft instead of cozying up to them and we'll talk."

    • Jake

      You do know that HTML 5 could enact a DRM in effect simply by identifying browser type and checking for cookies before you allow for a download.

      • WaltFrench

        So, the Flash developers are just talking BS? I'm not in their camp but somehow doubt that they're going thru all their trouble for nothing.

  • Alexkhan2000

    It's difficult to say that the direction of Android and its resultant fragmentation was by grand design that Schmidt and his lieutenants laid out step by step. It could very well be that they didn't expect things to have gone as they have. I think the same goes for Apple and the iPhone. I don't think Jobs and the folks at Apple ever thought it would take off as it did so quickly. Sure they expected success but judging by how hard it has been for Apple to keep up with the demand, it doesn't seem like they were quite prepared for it.

    It seems Google was thinking about mobile long before Android was a twinkle in Google's eyes. Sun was touting the Java Mobile Edition over a decade ago and Schmidt was a driving force behind Java at Sun during the 90's. Sun was a fascinating company back in the 90's. Sun had the future nearly in its grasp but failed to take the initiatives and allowed Microsoft from the bottom and IBM/HP to push down from the top. Sun just didn't know how to monetize Java or deal with the mass volume invasion of Windows as well as the open source movement and protect its profitable niche of selling expensive servers to the dot com crowd.

    Google can be seen as the promise of what Sun had in the late-90's fulfilled. The Eric Schmidt connection is no mere coincidence. Once the search thing got established, Google needed someone who could fend off Microsoft and strike at Microsoft's core businesses itself. They saw what happened to Netscape and they weren't going to let the same thing happen to Google. And, certainly, Schmidt had an axe to grind. He lost twice to Microsoft at Sun and as CEO at Novell. With Google, he had a swarming horde on the wide plains against a monolithic and slow-footed Microsoft more suited to focused one-on-one battles in compact space.

    All of Google's strategic initiatives taken during the early part of this decade were directed at Microsoft – both defensively to protect the search business and also attacking preemptively at whatever stranglehold that Microsoft had on the Internet. Gmail is a prime example. Afterwards it was about the nascent mobile market and disrupting Windows Mobile in whatever ways that Google can – hence the acquisition of Android in '05.

    My thoughts are that Google was purely driven to protect search against Microsoft and also counterattack from all sides and grab what they can. It's like seeing a swarming light cavalry horde against a heavy infantry that is entrenched and immobile. The Internet is a turf that Google is very comfortable on. Google has no package software or even a standalone program (like the browser or OpenOffice) that Microsoft can attack.

    Perhaps a better analogy is that the Internet is like fighting in air instead of land and sea. Maybe we can look at the hardware space as land and software as the sea. Google ruling the air gives them a distinct advantage over both land and sea. Microsoft ruling the seas forces land powers to pay a tax for them to get around. Apple is the only true combined force that has stakes on land, sea and air of their "closed" territory, but Apple needs more control of the air to expand their land territory. The war is now three-dimensional where in the past it was mainly on flat surfaces and terrains.

    Google basically developed a warplane (search) and I don't think they really had any idea what kind of havoc that would cause on the power structure on land and sea. Once they realized what they had and that the dominant sea power will develop its own air force (aircraft carrier) to come after them, Google said: "It's time to develop more planes and start attacking this huge navy." And make no mistake, Ballmer and Microsoft see Google as its biggest existential threat. This well-known statement from ex-Microsoft software engineer Marc Lucovsky about how Ballmer responded to him joining Google gives us a good insight about how Ballmer *really* feels about Google:

    Of course, Lucovsky's statement can be viewed as hearsay, but it'd be much more surprising if Ballmer had said something like, "Hey, congrats on joining such a great company. I wish you the best over there. They have a great future." There's no love lost between Google and Microsoft. That much we can be certain of.

    So, whether by design or being pulled unwittingly by the centrifugal force that they've set in motion, Google now has no choice to fight this war on multiple fronts – against Microsoft, against Apple, and against upstarts like Facebook flying in with distinctive "aircrafts" of their own. Google's air supremacy (domination of the Internet) is certainly a concern for all the other powers entrenched on land and sea. The typical citizen (consumer) really doesn't seem to care and when you look at history of various kings and generals fighting over territories and building empires, the masses really didn't care. They just wanted to go on with their lives of raising a family without any hardships, just like the typical mom and pop considering a new smartphone at the local Best Buy… 🙂

    • berult

      You are one passionate analogy craftsman. Space…, cyber, hyper, outer, blank, empty, single, double, time or cupboard related, is piecemeal on a chart, out-of-worldly continuous on a raft. War strategy outlines manned terrains for the General, dismisses voids in the willful conduct of the war. War is non sequitur to peace apology for it focuses on insiders' space, the mappable, outsized, fit for "General" consumption one.  

      It you so desire to explore the full spatial dimension of Life, please don't plead to a General for guidance. He'll secure his thoroughness through a map.

      Apple cannot be explained through the war paradigm. Their whole conceptual development is based on harmonious, paradigmatic continuity that caters in vivo for serendipitous hostility. An integrated peace model that is better described in space-time continuo than stop-watch revisionism. 

      Google, Microsoft, Facebook and the rest of them can play war games to board room satiety, Apple best sticks with space cadets like you and me, or is that just me?

      • Alexkhan2000

        Haha. 😉 Yes, it's easy to philosophize about the whole package that Apple provides. After all, Jobs is a Buddhist and one-time hippie who experimented with hallucinogenic drugs. Apple's passion for music and other creative industries does say something about what drives Apple at a more subconscious level. I work in the musical instruments industry and have been a long-time musician myself, so I can certainly relate. I'm fortunate to work with some of the greatest musicians in the world and have been a passionate fan of composers ranging from Bach to Wagner and jazz artists such as Duke Ellington to Miles Davis. Music, the arts, literature, philosophy, etc. are all good. They drive the creative side which forces us to view the world from a much wider intellectual perspective.

        But I must say, if there is one art that fascinates me over all other, it is strategy. Strategy is an art in that it requires instinct as well as the intellect and cold mathematical analysis. War or not, there is strategy in everything that Apple does, just as there was strategy in how Beethoven constructed his symphonies. But Jobs and Apple do not operate or create in a vacuum. They are affected by various external factors and must act accordingly although Apple is indeed one company that has the luxury to look more within to create and lead than merely react and follow.

        Jobs is one of the greatest strategists I've followed and I'm quite the history buff – military, political, or business-wise. It's his instinct and ability to see things that his competitors and adversaries can't that set him apart. All the successful strategists of history seemed to have that sixth sense or a certain sense of vision that others just didn't have. He's also a great learner and analyzes the situations around him better than others. And he seems to be getting better and better at it as Apple continues to grow. Even as Apple has become a $65 billion giant that will soon surpass $100 billion in annual revenues, he somehow still keeps Apple moving with the speed of an upstart. It's quite remarkable. The only other figure in history that I can compare this to is Alexander the Great during his conquest of the Persian Empire and west India in 4th century BCE.

        My thoughts are that if we are to understand what is going on now, we must understand what happened in the past and how those events affected and influenced the events that came afterwards. Whether that's history or science, all things are built on what happened before. It's the same in this industry that we discuss with such enthusiasm and even passion here on this site, which I find the most interesting in this realm thanks to Horace and all the other knowledgeable and thoughtful posters whose backgrounds I admire greatly. I certainly know when I'm out of my league and wouldn't dare to post on things I'm ignorant about. It's great to learn so much over here. I learn more here than all other tech blog sites combined.

      • Guest

        Nice history lesson. However, I am not sure I would put Steve Jobs in the Alexander camp. Alexander became what he conquered. Maybe not a conqueror, but a shaman character type, perhaps religion?

      • Alexkhan2000

        I'm talking strictly from strategic and operational perspectives. Alexander's obsession later in his career and life with divinity really has nothing to do with any of this. It's more about leadership of a large organization (or a large army and administrative centers in Alexander's empire) and keeping it going to stay a step ahead of the competition or adversaries. When one studies Alexander's campaigns, it's always the *speed* that stands out in his stunning successes. Alexander's tempo and speed in his execution were always running well ahead of the decision cycles of his enemies. The iPad is a good example in Apple's case.

        I see many similarities in that regard. It's more about making a decision (from the pricing to the type of features offered on the iPhone and the iPad to the logistics of production in Asia and distribution coverage in the markets all around the world) and then executing through delegation to the trusted generals and lieutenants who are also a step ahead of their counterparts. It's also about the people the top leader keeps around him. Alexander had great generals whom he could trust and Jobs has great executives he can trust. Ultimately, the leader becomes only as good as the people who can carry out the vision and the strategies he lays out.

        I would not compare Jobs to someone like Alexander in a metaphysical sense or socio-political perspective. That would be absurd. I'm comparing strictly from a strategic and tactical perspective both in outwitting the enemy and of controlling an organization entrusted to execute the plans laid out by the leaders. Alexander was a military and political leader. Jobs is a business leader who has had a profound cultural impact on the modern society. There are differences and similarities. The similarities are in how they approach strategy and leading their respective organizations against antagonists and how they execute in both the grand strategic and lower tactical levels.

        Everything else is fluff and non-related. Alexander's personal life never interested me very much and the same goes for Jobs. The same can be said for other figures I admire in history or current affairs. For me, it's always been about what they *do* in their careers in whatever fields or disciplines they pursue. Whether that's Aristotle or Julius Caesar or Leonardo da Vinci or Thomas Jefferson or Friedrich Nietzsche or Albert Einstein, I'm more interested in what they achieved and how they did what they did and what conditions and surroundings they were working in. Their personal lives or thoughts and beliefs provide some insights into what drove them, but to me, it's not nearly as interesting as what they actually *did*.

      • dchu220

        Can you recommend any good books on Alexander or Khan? Still trying to figure out what 2000 stands for.

      • Alexkhan2000

        If there is one book on Alexander I recommend that focuses on his military and geopolitical exploits and strategy it'd be this one from noted military historian Bill Yenne:

        There are literally hundreds of good books on him and I've read at least 40, but in terms of brevity and skipping over the drama and fluff of his life (which is also quite interesting by the way), this one would be of most interest to those interested in strategy and getting a general overview of his career. If one wants to *really* dig deep into his strategies and tactics, there's this pricey book:

        As for Genghis Khan, there really isn't one book I can recommend that would be as pertinent to the types of discussions we are having here, but if there is one good general book that gives a good overview of his achievements and the effects his conquests had on the world, this one would be it.

        As for why I have 2000, that's the year I adopted the moniker for Internet usage as some guy already had "alexkhan" on Yahoo! 😉

      • berult

        There are those who push the art of making war to surreality, with dire consequences for future realities. Alexander conquered the World and set the bar low for future emulation. He legitimized and time warped war, at the follow-up cost of his own Hellenic Peninsula, yielded post mortem to the nascent Roman Empire.

        Genius is mortal, its legacy endures, … a "dreamt of" Conqueror's legacy!

        I hope Steve Jobs takes his cues from the restful soul of Mahatma Gandhi. A peace strategist and actor of noble consequences for the World, but first and foremost, for his own People.

        Genius is mortal, its legacy endures, …a "dreamt of" Peace Monger's legacy!        

      • Alexkhan2000

        You make a good point but warfare has been a condition of human affairs as long as we've been around. And when you look around in nature, from animals fighting over mates or territories to the fundamental tug of war between gravity and energy/matter in stars all the way up to clusters of galaxies, conflict and the resolution through "force" is as important as the equilibrium that maintains the status quo.

        As for Alexander, we have to view his legacy from the perspective of the time and the place in which he lived – not our modern moral perspectives some two millennia later. As you point out, he paved the way for the Roman Empire by destroying the Persian Empire that was a menace to Greece and what became the West. But virtually all nations around the world today are results of empires – big and small. China was a big fiefdom of hundreds of kingdoms that was eventually unified by force. Same for England and same for Japan…

        I'm no war monger and I highly doubt Jobs is either. I understand that Gandhi is one of Jobs' biggest heroes, so there's something spiritual there in the application of mobilizing the masses. But in business, one still has to compete and, for Apple, the stakes are getting higher and higher as they grow and earn boatloads of money that large competitors would prefer to do themselves. Whether it's gaining market share or maximizing profits to drive up the stock price for shareholders, the goal is quite simple: Apple has to apply various strategies and tactics to outwit and outperform their competitors. That's all I'm getting at here.

      • berult

        "I'm no war monger…"

        I know you're not. Your peace loving wholesomeness seeps through your penmanship.

      • Alexkhan2000

        Thanks. 🙂 Enjoyed the little side excursion from the discussion on hand and I hope we didn't bore the other readers here with this detour. I'm learning a lot from the other posts on this thread as I usually do from the articles posted on this site.

  • Billy

    Isn't piracy of Android applications also rife on the platform, again thanks to the lack of any effective DRM?

    I'm not a fan of DRM but I do believe that content creators should be rewarded for their labours, in which case a "fair" DRM system is entirely acceptable as the other alternatives (no DRM/mass piracy or excessively restrictive DRM) are simply not viable in the longer term.

    The fact that Android doest not have a coherent, effective DRM system doesn't suggest to me that Google is agnostic or favours the user over the content creator, it just suggests to me that Google hasn't got it's arse around to figuring out how to build it (and yes, because Google does see content protection as a low priority).

    • Jake

      So, how do you steal an APK file from an Android phone?

      Apps are installed on the internal phone memory, which is not accessible if you connect the phone to a USB device.

      Under Froyo, apps are now allowed to be installed on the SD card. However, these apps are encrypted.

      Blackberry refuses to allow apps to be installed on the SD card. This leads to a problem when the internal phone memory runs short. The same situation with Android which is why encrypted apps are now finally allowed on the SD card under Froyo, but that is only if the developer assigns a permission for it. I can make my apps refuse to install on the SD card, simple as that.

      Under Symbian and Windows Mobile, apps are allowed to be installed on the SD card. That opens the door for piracy which is one reason why many developers don't want to work for Nokia or Windows Mobile. That is why in some models of Windows Phone 7, remove the SD card, both phone and SD card would reset and clear itself.

      Please note apps are more likely to be stolen not by downloading to the phone through the mobile app store, but through the desktop version of the app store where they get stored inside a PC file system.

    • dchu220

      I'm sure that Google will eventually patch up the DRM issue once they realize how important Apps will be in the future mobile OS world. As much as we all love the idea of web everything, there are some things that apps just do better.

      The problem for Google is that they have been labeled as content pirates by the industry. Sometimes labels are harder to shake than the truth.

      • kevin

        As long as apps are intended to be ad-supported, there is no reason to patch up the DRM issue for apps. And ad-supported apps should be free, so there's no need for piracy; in fact, the more distribution the better, since it increases the greater likelihood someone will click on an ad.

        We don't know that this is Google's strategy, but the facts are it isn't doing much to fix DRM for apps or to increase the number of countries where the Android Market can accept payments for apps.

      • dchu220

        Not all apps want to be ad-supported. Certain content has a lot of value, but a short time window. Think of SAT prep tests. These aren't good candidates for ad-support.

        Google will figure out a DRM model if they want to be a major player in the mobile OS world. Period. It's like how Apple got hammered for lacking 'cut and paste' for a long time. It's only time a matter of time.

  • WaltFrench

    Horace, I *like* this fragmentation theme. (Not that it's a whole lot different than your other work in that regard.)

    My impression is that the carriers (and maybe, to some extent, Microsoft) have long played the OEMs against each other, and that the good people at Android had a pre-written playbook to read from. You'd want a multiplicity of OEMs so that you weren't reliant on any one, but some more financially successful than the others, so they could earn enough profit to advance new technologies for you (for your platform). This kind of jumps out at you when you look thru the lens of the Herfendahl-Hirschman concentration index.

    I think it'd be neat to apply standard microeconomic analysis to the Android OEM space, and see whether Android has changed the rules in any sense from the Old Days of 2006, when the carriers and Microsoft were the ones calling the shots with generic feature phones or Windows phones.

  • Cadillac88

    Just what value is google adding with android? Here at least, google is looking more and more like a parasite. They are sucking the life out of anything worthwhile on the net. By time Google is through with HTML, it will be worth what you pay for it – nothing. But there sure will be plenty of it Along the way then, of course, we’ll all be searching more often to find the last fractions of what used to be there. And what you do find isn’t so much you finding it as you being steered there like, well, steer. Because you’re not paying, you’re not the customer, but you do have a role in it and you are not so anonymous and worthless as you think. And some people, I see, are already getting happier, unawares as they are with their new role. Others, not so much.

    • dchu220

      That's just going a bit overboard.

      Besides giving Apple haters a platform to rally behind, Android can also hit price points that iOS can't, giving users at the bottom tier of smart phones a viable option. Android also has introduced a number of interesting features, such as voice recognition.

      As for content. So what if they devalue content. For content to be valuable, there has to be an inferior alternative. Premium content providers will continue to exist. I will be happy if Google TV can kill crappy TV shows.

      • kevin

        Why "can't" Apple hit those price points? Or by "can't" are you really trying to say "won't" because it's not Apple's strategy? Or are you referring to super-cheapo products from whitebox and grey label assemblers?

        By the way, search the web today for Toshiba Folio and see what's happened to this Android tablet in the UK, where it was already being sold.

  • Jake

    The appearance of so called "variants" are overrated.

    To explain, graphical UIs like HTC Sense, Touchwiz and Motoblur are just apps and widget systems. Nothing more. They don't affect what is underneath.

    If you have an Android with HTC Sense or Touchwiz, go to the Android Market and download an app called Launcher Pro. What it does is basically replaces the front UI with its own UI that looks like a hybrid between Eclair and Froyo. Once you got Launcher Pro into an HTC, Motorola or Samsung, its all the same.

    Fragmentation has to be defined in different levels.

    User Interface – Motoblur, HTC Sense, Touchwiz, "Genuine" (actually the least important)

    OS versioning – 1.6, 2.1, 2.2, (value depends on API changes)

    Hardware interface – ARM11, Snapdragon, OMAP6, Hummingbird, Tegra2, Rockwell (this is important for gaming, but not web apps or productivity software).

    Display Resolution – QVGA, HVGA, WVGA. Affects both text apps, media and gaming apps.
    API — This is what is most important. yet the API changes are also the most subtle, such as voice commands.

    API changes – This is the most important of all, such as support for multitouch, support for voice input, support for in app transactions. Yet, Android remains strongly internally consistent in this area.

    • asymco

      All this happened before in exactly the same way with Windows Mobile, the business that Google sought to disrupt with Android.

    • dchu220

      At what level do carriers insert anti-rooting?

    • famousringo

      I like your breakdown of the layers of fragmentation, but I think you underestimate the importance of UI. How you interact with the device is the single most important aspect to the average user.

      Ever try to move a non-techie from Windows to Mac OS or vice versa? It doesn't matter that 90% of tasks can be accomplished in a very similar fashion on both platforms, the small differences in appearance and location of commands are confusing and daunting to a person who only understands the process to accomplish a particular task, and not the language or ideas behind it.

      As these Android variants mature and diversify, I suspect such a person would find moving from one variant Android UI to another only slightly less challenging than going from Android to iOS, app lock-in aside.

      And then there's HTC's plan to modify Android at the "bone-deep" level…

  • GBoen

    I don't believe you. Why should DRM be impossible on an open system? I bet there is a possibility to implement some DRM with open source.

    • asymco

      I have heard this from multiple sources. DRM ultimately depends on a secret. Open source cannot harbor secrets. I don't have proof however, it would be nice if someone could find it.

      There is a discussion on it here:

    • asymco

      And additional discussion thread here:

      Quoting one comment:
      "Open-source DRM is virtually impossible.

      The point of DRM is to prevent a user from decrypting some data, while at the same time allowing them to do so under some circumstances. The theoretical framework of encryption makes this absurd – how can the user only have the key to decrypt some data if they're using it for approved purposes?

      The solution adopted by existing DRM systems is to go to ridiculous lengths to hide the key – a perfect example of security by obscurity – but if the source code is available it is trivial to simply modify the code to hand the key to the user. At this point it doesn't matter how good your encryption is, the user has everything they need to break it."

  • Alexkhan2000

    Saw this article at Computerworld today that I guess is somewhat relevant to the discussion we're having here:

    It's kind of an opposite paradigm from Google's fragmentation theme but still sounds pretty far-fetched to me. Apple, the number one danger to Internet freedom?

    • asymco

      Heavy on psychoanalysis and character judgement while light on causality and system analysis.

  • You know for so long the Apple fan boys have been using "Android fragmentation" as ammo for when ever they want to try and bring down Android.

    As you can clearly see, Android is no longer as fragmented as it once was. However there is still room for improvement. I came across an article that touched point on some of Android fragmentation issues and how they can be overcome. You can read the article here: