Google has forked Android

Google has forked Android

Summary: There’s no official word, but it doesn't take much reading between the lines to see that Android 3 will be for tablets only while the Android 2.x line is for smartphones.


The last thing I wanted to see was Android to split into two “official” versions. Well, guess what, for all intents and purposes that’s what's happened. Ack!

It’s bad enough that Android has multiple current versions. Then, Xavier Ducrohet, Android SDK (Software Development Kit) Tech Lead, announced “Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) is a new version of the Android platform that is designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets.”

I asked multiple people at Google if they could expand on this news. None of this could.

So, I’ll spell out what I think is happening here. We’re seeing an Android fork. There will be one line for smartphones, the current Android 2.3, Gingerbread, line, and the forthcoming Android 3, Honeycomb, line.

According to Ducrohet, besides Android’s common features set—multitasking, notifications, and widgets—Honeycomb will have a new UI (user interface) framework for creating great apps for larger screen devices; high-performance 2D and 3D graphics using a built-in OpenGL (Open Graphics Library); support for multicore processors; rich multimedia; new Bluetooth APIs (application programming interfaces) and enterprise enhancements such as encrypted storage and password expiration. That’s all great, but really do we need to split Android into two parts to do this?

If you look at the Android Honeycomb highlights, it becomes even clearer that Honeycomb is going its own way. There is some good news for developers who don’t want to re-do their Android 2.x work for Honeycomb. As the Web page states, while “The new UI brings fresh paradigms for interaction, navigation, and customization and makes them available to all applications—even those built for earlier versions of the platform. Applications written for Android 3.0 are able to use an extended set of UI objects, powerful graphics, and media capabilities to engage users in new ways.”

There’s the rub. If you write apps. for Honeycomb and the coming flood of Android tablets, it sounds like you’re not going to be able to easily backport them to Android smartphones. Sure you could just write for Android 2.x, but your 2.x compliant applications won’t look half-as-good running on tablets. No developer who wants to make money is going to do that.

I like Honeycomb’s new features. They sound great. I just object to Google to turning Android into two separate but unequal platforms Sure, the hardware was never going to be the same, but did Google really need to make two platforms? Apple seems to be doing OK with iOS for everything from iPad Touch devices to iPad.

For Android developers the bottom line is going to mean more work because they’ll need to write two different versions of every single application. Like I said at the top: “Ack!”

Topics: Laptops, Google, Hardware, Mobility, Software Development, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Google has forked Android

    It makes perfect sense. But I guess you would have to make it sound sensationalist to get page hits.
    • RE: Google has forked Android

      @cj100570@... How does this make sense? Like the man said Apple has no issues with iOS running on iPod Touches/ iPhone and iPads...

      Android users get to enjoy even MORE fragmentation when Google should have been focused on a unifying platform.
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        Speaking of fragmentation. I take note of the honeycomb feature of scalable DRM. Does this mean Netflix will most likely show up on Honeycomb devices only?

        With all the fragmentation, and google's track record, I'm leaning very heavily toward getting an iPod Touch or iPad.

        I was waiting to see what Microsoft does in the tablet market as well....and I am very pro Microsoft....but it seems they are a day late and a dollar least when it comes to consumer level tablets.

        So far, the iPod Touch and iPad both give me the Netflix app that I want as a consumer and the ability to remote desktop into servers that I want/need for work, along with Exchange access.

        Apple sucks on the desktop....but it looks like they may have gotten it right on the tablet.
      • RE: Google has forked Android


        I just got my hands on the HP Slate, and I have to admin, it's pretty nice if you want a tablet that runs full apps. It's not for everyone, plenty of people here still love the iPad, but I need full fledged apps to do my job, so it works pretty well. Seems like MS could tweak the UI a bit and get a tablet version of the OS that has all the capabilities in a reasonable time frame, I'm not sure what the delay is.
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        @athynz Honeycomb has already been hacked to use on phones. And guess what??? It works just fine.

        I have and LOVE Android, and would never use any Apple garbage. Android is made to run on many devices NOT necessarily made by Google. Let me know when Apple's iOS can do that. (never) Give this fanboy shit a rest already. It's really getting old. People are tired of hearing it.
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        @athynz <br>When you think about it does. I mean look at how the iPad began, the first version of iOS for iPad was a direct fork of the current 3.0 and in a retrospective still is. 3.2.x were <b>all</b> iPad only.<br><br>It isn't fragmentation when it's targeted to a totally different set of devices, anyway. Just like the iPad version of iOS. Android 3.0 Honeycomb is for tablets, not phones. I just wonder if the current 2.x line will ever get off of, well, 2.x.
      • Give this fanboy **** a rest already.

        @blueskip [i]"I have and LOVE Android, and would never use any Apple garbage."[/i] Pot. Kettle. Black.
      • It makes sense if you want more functionality

        @athynz They are building another Android platform, for larger, more powerful machines, and (hopefully) it is still an "open system" (whatever that means these days).

        ios isn't really in the same category. It is a subset of functionality that the vendor deems appropriate. There is nothing open about the system (except that Apple didn't write the core), and generally it is running on at least somewhat wimpy hardware (especially the ipad and most of the older stuff).
        Schoolboy Bob
      • so what - no big deal

        because googles been forking over their users since the begining so this is nothing new that they forking android - anything to fork people some more.
        Ron Bergundy
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        If it wasn't for fragmentation you wouldn't even have a choice of Android tablet. You would have 1 tablet to pick from and it would be made by Google and that would be other words, it would be just like Apple.

        Fragmentation, despite the hype, is a good thing. If apps have problems it is because of poorly designed programs. Android is set up to be scalable and hardware independent. However, that aside, fragmentation occurs because you have 500 different devices all running the OS. As a result, you can get a $249 Nook color, a $299 Archos 101, a $3495 Motorola Xoom, etc etc (yes, I'm mocking the Xoom's price).
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        @athynz ios ipad iphone same os doesnt take a dummy to fig that out.. fragmentation? can you use multitasking on a 3g iphone "NO" or add wallpaper "NO" AINT THAT FRAGMENTATION??? basically you gotta buy a new phone
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        @blueskip Pot meet kettle. Are you that blinded by your hatred of Apple that you can see you are at least as much a fanboy of Android as you accuse athynz of being for Apple? I also find it funny you talk about hacking the OS to make it do something when that was never good enough for all you haters when talking about iOS.
    • RE: Google has forked Android

      @cj100570@... No, I really do think it's a mistake that could end up hurting Android adoption by developers and eventually by users. Who wants to 'buy' an app. for their tablet if it only works well on a smartphone? We're already beginning to see users being annoyed by apps that will work with the newest versions of Android 2.x but not with earlier versions. This is only to make things more complicated for buyers, and that's never, ever a good move in any market.

      • RE: Google has forked Android


        Steven, I have a first gen Moto Droid, and with thesoftware update, it runs all of the apps I have loaded. What is the nature of phone applications that won't run? is it memory or procdessor speed? I haven't seen the problem.

        PS, Google always intended for these 'forks'. Remember Chrome OS? I am not sure that Android could run the larger screens without a change in video software.
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        From the dawn of computing all applications have had minimal software and hardware requirements. Why is android being pegged as the only one where this is a problem?

        Sure there are apps that are made for 2.x that wont work on 1.x devices but the market filters those apps out.

        As for this "fork" as you call it, I really didn't read it that way. Yes, there will be applications that are built specifically for tablets/honeycomb but it seems to me that developers should be able to write on application that conforms the the OS and form factor. If I'm wrong please explain.
  • RE: Google has forked Android

    Quite frankly, I don't want my tablet to look like my phone. But, I hope my apps work on both devices. It could also mean a little matter of moving away from the Oracle lawsuit?
    • RE: Google has forked Android


      I suspect that one of the reasons for the success of Apple products is the consistent interface. Pick-up and iPod touch, iPhone, iPad and the interface is the same; there is no additional learning experience. That might not make sense to someone who is highly adept with technology, but it makes a lot of sense for most general users. You might want "everything" to be difference, but I bet pounds to peanuts the average user does not.
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        @ptorning Tablets are more powerful and have bigger screens. You want tabbed browsing, home widgets, desktops for different work setups in tablets, like you have in a computer.

        Also, because it is bigger it doesn't make sense to rely on hardware buttons because it harder to control them when you need both hands. In a phone, clicking on buttons can be done with one hand and it doesn't matter if it is in landscape or portrait. Now, see how weird it is to push the iPad button in portrait mode. That is just wrong.<br><br>A tablet experience must be different because the form factor changes everything. Unless all you want is a bigger phone, it is better to design an interface that better fits the tablets format.
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        @ptorning <br>I agree with you, having a consistent user interface is one of the key ingredient as of why Apple has succeeded with their devises. One of the things I hate about Android based phones is that the UI varies from manufacturer to another, therefore making user learning curve a bit harder. <br><br>Now, when it comes with tablets, I'm not so sure I want to have the exact interface as my phone since these two have different screen real-state. From a developer stand point, I agree, it will make it harder and make projects longer to deliver for multiple platforms. Then again, from the user's stand point, WHO CARES!!!!??? users just need to know it works, and if it does a good job install it on multiple devices.
      • RE: Google has forked Android

        @ptorning & reyonlines
        "I agree with you, having a consistent user interface is one of the key ingredient as of why Apple has succeeded with their devises."

        Actually, no creating a new OS to better match new formats was their real key to success.