Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

Summary: If you want to talk about forks, let's talk about LibreOffice and FreeBSD. Android 3.0? Not so much.

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TOPICS: Android, Google
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Do you remember that scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Kindergarten Cop, when the little hypochondriac boy suggests that Arnold's kid-induced headache might be a tumor? His response? "It's not a too-mah."

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols made some great points about Android fragmentation in his post, "Google has forked Android." I've railed against it as well, noting that it was seriously hampering Android application development. That being said, Android 3.0 (or Honeycomb as it's more commonly called) is not a fork.

Nobody suggested that Ubuntu had forked when their Netbook Remix was introduced. Nor is Edubuntu a fork of Ubuntu. Nor is Ubuntu running their Unity interface a fork of previous versions of Ubuntu. Just as the underlying core of *buntu doesn't differ between the various partner projects or user interface "spins," Android 3.0 represents far more of a UI change than a true fork. The underlying technology is Android (meaning Linux, Dvalik, and Java), 3.0 is backwards compatible with 2.x and simply gives developers the tools and UI necessary to properly exploit larger tablet screens. There are, after all, plenty of apps designed for the iPad that aren't available on other iOS devices.

While Adrian Kingsley-Hughes didn't ever say that Honeycomb wasn't a fork, he did bring forward some very salient points in his post, "Android forking?!?!?! DON'T PANIC!" He quotes Xavier Ducrohet, Android SDK (Software Development Kit) Tech Lead:

Android 3.0 brings a new UI designed for tablets and other larger screen devices, but it also is fully compatible with applications developed for earlier versions of the platform, or for smaller screen sizes. Existing applications can seamlessly participate in the new holographic UI theme without code changes, by adding a single attribute in their manifest files. The platform emulates the Menu key, which is replaced by the overflow menu in the Action Bar in the new UI. Developers wanting to take fuller advantage of larger screen sizes can also create dedicated layouts and assets for larger screens and add them to their existing applications.

LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice. The two groups are taking development in different directions and have ideological differences. However, the core of Android 2.x and the core of Android 3.x are the same. Advancements in battery life in 2.x are going to happen in 3.x. Advances in parallel processing necessitated by a rash of dual core ARM-based tablets will make their way into 2.x as more and more dual-core "superphones" emerge.

In fact, the problem of fragmentation between Android 2.x and Honeycomb is far less significant than the problem of fragmentation on Android's smartphone platforms. For phones, developers must decide whether to code for the latest and greatest (currently 2.3, used by very few people), the most common (2.2, lacking many of the enhancements in 2.3), or even the lowest common denominator of 1.5 or 1.6.

On the other hand, developers who want to create tablet apps are probably going to code for 3.0. Within 6 months, the vast majority of Android tablets won't be running 2.x. The UI enhancements in 3.0 also allow for them to simply code phone apps to 2.3 that will simply run on 3.0 (albeit without enhanced resolutions or optimized screen sizes).

As the forms and functions of Android devices continue to proliferate, this sort of fragmentation will drive developers to code for tablets, specifically, or phones, or TVs, or whatever. There will be specialization that Android supports quite handily. It isn't a perfect system, but ultimately the flexibility that the open source OS enables will win out over other platforms. A fork, however, implies that the Android running on tablets will not be the Android running on phones (or whatever other devices uses the OS). Until someone takes Android, makes it Humanoid, and begins to take the development and functionality (or even the licensing) in a different direction, Android will still be Android.

Topics: Android, Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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34 comments
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  • Whatever Android is...

    it originated as an idea Google stole from Apple
    iPad-awan
    • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

      @iPad-awan For the love of God you Apple weenies need to grow up. Apple's legal team is quite busy with lawsuits filed by a lot of companies that claim Apple stole from them.

      Go stroke your iPad and be happy with what you have. Some of us want more and Android is it.
      Dualsub2006
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @Dualsub2006

        There are not Apps for tablets on Android.
        LP212
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @Dualsub2006 Well then maybe you can explain to me how the original (pre iPhone) Android OS looked a lot like the Blackberry OS and when Google bought Android, Eric Schmidt was on Apple's board of directors and had access to iPhoen development, and iPhone took off that the Android UI changed and much more closely resembles the iOS.<br><br>Can you explain this? Anyone?
        athynz
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @athynz
        You mean Icon short cuts to applications in a grid pattern over wallpaper with a menu bar at the bottom? Thats been the standard "desktop" paradigm on PCs, PDAs, and Phones for 20 some odd years.

        If you're gonna accuse someone of stealing, at least pick something that Apple was original about.
        30otnix
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @Dualsub2006 wake up! Calling people names because they like the company or the product that made an entire platform successful where others failed, is childish. Thinking that the cheap knock-off is superior to the original before a product has even been in the market or hasn't been out long enough to know anything significant, well that just isn't smart. Several of my Friends have Android phones, and it hasn't yet impressed me as an easy, stable, platform. It shows promise and I hope it is great, but they need to accomplish that before I praise them for it.
        RedVeg
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @Dualsub2006 (actually @ATHYNZ)

        Yeah that UI was something shoplifted by some chick named Lisa when she went shopping at the PARC, I think.
        jeverettk
    • Whatever iPad is...

      @iPad-awan <br>Whatever iPad is... it originated as an idea Apple stole from Microsoft.
      lemuelinchrist
      • The tablet is an ancient idea...

        @lemuelinchrist agreed. Back in the days of Comdex, Bill G introduced the idea...<br><br><a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/70503/gates_unveils_portable_tablet_pc.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.pcworld.com/article/70503/gates_unveils_portable_tablet_pc.html</a><br><br>Ironically Apple merely recognized the the correct timing to introduce it. When the hardware was up to par with the concept, and they did a decent job at it as well...<br><br>Guess its a good thing that Gates didn't let Apple go under back in 1997. He was absolutely correct that the industry needs competition inorder to evolve at a faster pace.

        The question is, will Google be able to substantially increase the "bar" with HC.

        My real question is, will the mobile os evolve to tablet to pc... or pc evolve to tablet to mobile? There is not a question when the two will cross paths...
        WishyWashyWannabe
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @lemuelinchrist Nope, the original tablet PC was the Apple Newton not a Microsoft product. Although if you want to nitpick the original GUI was from technology developed by Xerox, licensed by Apple, and then stolen by Microsoft.
        athynz
      • not quite correct

        @athynz
        Original product was not the Newton...pretty sure Handspring was making tablets before that. Probably others also, I'm a little hazy on that.
        And they are referencing a Bill Gates idea that predated all those products. He just didn't get into production of that idea although I do remember him for years lugging around a tablet with a stylus.
        nickmcel
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @athynz Apple didn't license the GUI from Xerox. They stole the idea of the GUI. It's on record that employees at Xerox Parc were against showing Apple anything, but the higher ups agreed for some reason. I don't think the "suits" understood the vision of what Xerox was doing as well as the employees at Xerox who were coming up with these great inventions. Immediately after Jobs saw the GUI interface, that was the end of the Apple II development. The conceptual idea of the virtual desktop is a Xerox idea. If Jobs and Apple had never been shown the virtual desktop, the Macintosh would never have come about. Xerox Parc also invented Ethernet, WYSIWYG, desktop printing, mouse, and GUI among even more things.
        mrxxxman
    • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

      @iPad-awan

      Please everyone who is constantly saying the X stole from Y, get over it!
      If you are X or Y then it does concern you. If not, then all that should matter is what the device in your hand is like.
      Will T
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @Will T
        I am part of X... or Y... so it does concern me. And ironically I promote "theft" when it concerns conceptual models. It's quite clear that computing would not be where it is now if one company didn't "borrow" ideas from another company and evolve them into something new. I'd argue that is the foundation of computing as it is in most sciences.

        Now back on topic, I don't think Google is "copying" Apple, but rather becoming an addition to the 11 year history of tablet concept.

        Concerning the fork. While it isn't technically a "fork" I'd say that it does seems to be a move in the opposite direction of the far-out consumer dream. Unified data AND applications accoss all of the major 3 sceens.

        Google is a cloud company though, they will figure out a way to leverage that and bridge the gaps.
        WishyWashyWannabe
      • Right on!!!!

        @Will T I agree with you, Will T. The original Idea for the hand held computer, whatever you call it, was Gene Roddenberry's. It all came about because he said he did not want any paper on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. And it was called the PADD. So who stole from whom does not really matter. Sir Isaac Newton summed up the history of science and technology.<br>"If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." <br><br>No invention comes completely of itself. The steam engine that introduced the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century was based on the steam jet, the Aeolipile of Heron in the First Century AD. But, no one saw the possibilities for almost two Millennia. How would the world have progressed, or regressed, if Heron had hooked it to a flywheel and belt drive? Or if someone applied it to the Babbage Difference Engine?
        pfyearwood
      • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

        @Will T
        Couldn't agree more. It's no company can compete with Apple without having SOME fanboy saying so-and-so copied (or stole) from Apple.
        ZackCDLVI
    • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

      @iPad-awan Actually no. The company that made android before being bought by google started in 2003, long before you'd ever heard of the iPhone. Now don't you feel stupid, Google is your friend.
      snoop0x7b
    • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

      @iPad-awan
      It's called competition.
      ZackCDLVI
    • RE: Android 3.0 - It's not a fork

      @iPad-awan Funny because android was acquired by Google and was developed originally by a team that was working on it before ios was even out.
      Jimster480
  • Isn't Android a fork of Java?

    Chris makes a valid point, a fork under the same corporate umbrella is manageable. Outside a problem.<br><br>OT Anyone else notice the massive drop in spam this year?
    Richard Flude