Google’s Android mobile operating system is sitting on top of the mobile world. After sitting on the sidelines since its October 2008 introduction, Motorola’s Droid gave Android a much needed second chance when it launched and quickly captured the public’s attention and cash in November 2009. However, as Nokia, Palm, RIM, and Microsoft can tell you, getting to the top and staying there are two different things.
One projection (from IDC) shows Android remaining at the top of the heap through 2015.
However, Frank McPherson and I have noted a number of serious problems Android has that could topple it. One problem is that the Android Market was a mess for a long time. Its recent redesign helped. But, it may be Amazon’s AppStore that is finally able to provide Android developers with an actual revenue stream. To date, the vast majority of Android app downloads are free ones. But, even if that is the case, Android has one more big problem: Platform fragmentation. The wide variety of available Android smartphones (and more recently, tablets) has been one of its marketing strengths. However, it is also a weakness because manufacturers have released new devices with older versions of Android and have not been updating the devices. The combination of different hardware configurations and multiple versions of Android has caused fragmentation problems for both users and developers. Android users find that some apps may not run well or even at all on their device. Developers have to deal with supporting what amounts to multiple platforms. Here’s a small sampling of the fragmentation issues Frank and I have noted right here on Social Times.
Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt noted today that Android developers are now speaking out that:
The survey of developers reported in the article surfaces all of the issues Frank and I have been talking about for over a year now:
- Device fragmentation
- Store fragmentation
- Ease of development
- App visibility
- Ability to get paid
If Google and its manufacturing partners do not get these issues revolved soon, I predict IDC’s projections for Android’s 2015 market leadership will be dead wrong.