Report: Fragmentation won't hurt Android growth

Summary:Despite nagging issue of platform fragmentation, Google's Android platform projected to grow more than twice as fast as its mobile operating system rivals in 2011, predicts Canalys.

The Android operating system (OS) is set to leapfrog its rivals this year in spite of fragmentation issues that have dogged the mobile platform, according to a new report by research firm, Canalys.

Released Thursday, the report revealed that the open source mobile OS will grow at more than twice the rate of competing platforms. The momentum builds on Android's bullish run last year, where shipments of Android-based smartphones achieved a year-on-year growth of over 1,000 percent through the first three quarters of 2010, the research firm added.

The Canalys report noted that the platform boasted a 25 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market in the third quarter of 2010, with over 20 million Android-based devices shipped.

The projected growth comes despite fragmentation issues that have reportedly plagued the OS. A report by IMS Research last year warned that Android fragmentation could harm growth, as the incompatibility of various updates puts a strain on developers and vendors.

"Fragmentation affects all OS platforms, though, it is particularly visible with Android due to the fast pace of upgrades that has characterized its growth," Chris Jones, principal analyst at Canalys, said in the report. "The problem has been less pronounced on competitive platforms such as Apple's iOS, as devices have been able to support the iOS 4 upgrades since the iPhone 3G."

"Nokia has also sought to minimize its fragmentation issues by utilizing the cross-platform Qt framework," Jones said.

Worth the development effort
Gingerbread, or the current version 2.3, is the eighth update since the launch of the original Android platform in September 2008, noted Canalys. The upcoming Android 3.0, dubbed Honeycomb, is due out in the coming months particularly on smartpad or tablet-like form factors.

Fellow Canalys analyst, Daryl Chiam, noted that continued success of Android should signal to developers that it is worth the extra effort to tweak their applications so that user experience is optimal in spite of the different devices.

"With Android's momentum expected to stay strong, the installed base of Android-based smartphones and [tablets] will rapidly increase [which serves as] good news for developers," said Chiam. "To be successful, developers must be prepared to cater to the abilities of the different device categories, tweaking the user experience of their applications accordingly. This additional effort is well worth the potential benefit of broader application distribution."

Google, on the other hand, must also make "substantial enhancements to Android Market", the senior analyst said. These include the app store's ability to detect device platforms and highlight suitable applications, which would improve the user experience and increase the number of downloads.

Topics: Software, Apps, Hardware, Mobility, Open Source, Software Development

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