Android 5 Jelly Bean: I Say Innovation, You Say Fragmentation...

Android 5 Jelly Bean: I Say Innovation, You Say Fragmentation...

Summary: A new version of Google's Android mobile OS is expected to be unveiled at the Google I/O conference in late June. Will that leave developers or enterprises wanting to call the whole thing off?

TOPICS: ÜberTech, Android

Ah, June. The beginning of summer, when the kids are finally released from school, and Gadgets are finally released from the Purgatory between Digitimes Taiwan rumor and Midwestern Best Buy store shelf.

The hottest gadget rumor, lately even hotter than the iPhone 5, and wayyy hotter than the quickly-dismissed Facebook phone, is the Google Nexus tablet. This would be Google's second attempt at mobile hardware - its Google Nexus smartphone was a non-starter. It will allegedly be built by Asus, not Google's recently-swallowed Motorola Mobility, and run Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 chipset. It will be 7 inches, cost a Kindle-matching $200 and be the debut of the latest Android update, version 5.0, aka Jelly Bean.

For consumers, Jelly Bean should indeed be sweet. Rumors say goodies include a Siri-like voice assistant, Google's suddenly market-leading Chrome Web browser, better touch keyboard, more integration with Google services and more tablet-specific features.

For enterprises, rumored features they would care about include the ability to run on laptops (and possibly even dual-boot with Microsoft Windows), a file system, increased protection from malware, including the dumping of Adobe's already-dying mobile Flash player.

The other good news for enterprises is that Jelly Bean heralds a new era wherein Google will only release one major Android update per year.

How sweet will Android Jelly Bean be for enterprises?

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Google started off frenetically, taking the 'ship early, ship often' mantra literally. In 2009, Google released three updates to Android (Cupcake, Donut and Eclair). After complaints, it slowed the pace to bi-annual updates in the last two years.

The problem is that Google's hardware partners still haven't caught up. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is only running on about 5% of devices today. Almost two-thirds of devices are still running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Even Android 2.1 Eclair, released 2.5 years ago, has more users than ICS.

The Samsungs and HTCs of this world remain slow about releasing their newest hardware with the latest Android update installed (though the vendors would retort that Google's processes are to blame). They are also excruciatingly slow about making Android updates available to devices already out in the field (if at all).

By going to one update a year, providing better previews to key hardware and software partners, and clamping down on roadmap rumors, Cupertino-style, Google can go a long way towards turning a negative (fragmentation) into a positive (sustained, regular innovation).

I am also hoping that the lack of leaks about hard-core enterprise features in Jelly Bean are only because these kinds of features aren't sexy enough for the Rumor Mill.

Broadly speaking, Android remains the least secure and manageable of the major mobile platforms, partly because it lacks those features itself, but mostly because it doesn't allow third-party developers to easily implement them.

If Google opens up a significant number of Android APIs related to securing and managing devices, this would improve its reputation immensely, and overnight turn it into a true enterprise and BYOD contender versus iOS.

In the meantime, enterprises wanting to deploy Android should turn to devices like the Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. Samsung has done special engineering work to enable certain Mobile Device Management (MDM) software like SAP Afaria to have more control and security features. As a result, SAP has approved Galaxy devices for employee use, and now has more than 1,000 workers using them.

Topics: ÜberTech, Android

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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  • caught in the spin

    Those of us who rabidly pay attention (don't know the numbers but it is probably an extremely small percentage of Android users) are the only ones who care about this. Most technology users of any ilk are only concerned that they can update facebook and text and play some cool games. They couldn't care less about ICS or fragmentation.
    • but...

      but i am one of those that cares...and it's a little disheartening to have a nice phone (Rezound) and hear that I may FINALLY be getting ICS around the same time that Jellybean is introduced, lol.
      • But...nothing

        I had the Rezound(on ICS) and it was great. The reason you don't is Verizon, plain and simple. I now have a Galaxy Nexus and they similarly complain about not having the latest and greatest despite having a Nexus. The only way to please everyone would be to have one OS that is the same across all hardware which is IMPOSSIBLE. Much like windows or even Macs, older hardware will not support the latest O/S.

        Like it or not, that's just the way it is. Enjoy what you have and if not, buy something else and enjoy that instead. But don't operate under the assumption that anything beyond what's in your hand at time of purchase is "owed" to you.

        Back to the author of the article, Google already does on major release per year. Most of the tech-writers out there already blame that for "fragmentation"
      • Just root it...

        I have a Motorola Atrix that was on Telstra Gingerbread after ICS was released! I didn't wait... I rooted my device and I'm now running MIUI 2.6.1 (Build date being the version June 1st) and I am enjoying ICS goodness with a device that is the smoothest android experience.

        I also overclocked it from 1.0GHz to 1.45GHz of dual-core power. It is brilliant. This againt is in the spirit of the open-source community and the wonders it brings!
    • They really don't (and shouldn't care) ...

      ... you are right.

      And even to those of us who do it's not that big a deal. Even developers.
      Schoolboy Bob
    • You're right and you're wrong

      I think you're right and you're wrong. I agree that only a tiny percentage of tech geeks (like us) pay attention to the latest OS updates. But I do think there is some very real frustration from ordinary users when they discover that their phones can't be upgraded to the latest operating system.
  • De Ja Vu - chuckle

    Read your article first over on Forbes.... :)

    I have to agree - does it matter though?
    JB comes out and offers this new more manageable streamlined functionality on a yearly or so basis. This gives OEM's and Dev's time to check it out, develop, update, tweak, etc.... before this actually hits mainstream.

    And will it be that significantly different from ICS to preclude development work done for ICS?

    A serious step in the right direction.
  • Switching could just make things worse.

    Think of how fast Google pushed the mobile industry... Phones were flying off the shelves with new and innovative features. Sure not all of them were top of the line, and no not all of them run the latest operating system but the average consumer doesn't matter. The only one who really knows what fragmentation is, is the educated consumer, and even they don't fulling understand it. Google slowing down for the average consumer and not setting their eyes on innovation would go against their current culture and would place them more in the Apple camp. That just doesn't sound right to me. Even if they didn't release new OS' every 6 months I feel like they would still make Apps that are only available for certain OS levels and their possible as many as 5 Nexus devices by Thanksgiving 1st. How else would they push manufacturers to release updates faster. Look at the pace now. 5 months is acceptable. Don't you think they should do more. ASUS got the Transformer Primes ICS before Google/Motorola. That's dedication, they have made a point that they will stay on top of the game and make sure they are known at releasing OS' as fast as they can. I understand Gingerbread to ICS is a big jump, but these Manufacturers have to do better. If need be, focus on your latest, most powerful, and top selling phones first. YES, carriers will defiantly slow things down but make a deal with them to handle the software and hardware side of things if need be. GSM carriers seem to be the least restrict. Get those out first.
  • More fragmentation

    "A Siri-like voice assistant, Googles suddenly market-leading Chrome Web browser, better touch keyboard, more integration with Google services and more tablet-specific features."

    Clearly adding those features and calling it 5.0 would make it impossible to write an app that worked on it as well as previous versions. I mean they have a different freaking version number.
  • Fragmentation Nonsense

    Everybody who is writing about fragmentation still does not understand how the open source world is working which has paved the way for products like Android. In open source software it is all about evolution. Forking and customizing are core elements of the open source world. Since Android is an open source project these rules apply also to Android. People really need to leave behind the 20th century thinking and understand that the permanent refinement, updating and code branching is the core success factor of such projects. It guarantees progress (not like Microsoft with delivering a decade ago for 7 years the same browser). At the end in the open source world users and peer developers decide if a software becomes a success or not. The time where you had the swallow what you get (Windows) are gone. Thanks to open source software you have alternatives everywhere. And users don't care. They want a great experience with their devices and services (Gmail, Facebook & Co.) - that's it. Progress can help to increase that. Again: It is all about evolution - and evolution is fragmented by nature where the fittest survive.
    • I like open-source as an ideology better than as a shipping product

      You sound like a developer and/or technologist. So naturally, you feel comfortable with forks, custom versions, fragmentation. But let's take you out of your presumed comfort zone, to something where your DIY expertise wouldn't apply. What if you happened to be traveling in a country where a) you didn't speak any of the national languages; b) any potential purchase might require payment in one of several, highly-fluctuating currencies? Wouldn't you at that point pine for a single language (preferably English) and a non-inflation-ridden currency?

      My point is that a lot of consumers' heads spin when they are in the Verizon store and the sales rep is mysteriously babbling the names of various sweets.

      If you want Android to triumph in the mainstream, fragmentation has to be minimized or hidden as best as possible.
  • Yes...

    With 7% of the installed base, makes sense to ship now. Better have some crackerjack enhancements. No, it doesn't? Then what's the point?