It's only when you get a really popular application that gets the masses excited that you get see the full, ugly effects of fragmentation on a platform. Make that particular application a game and it's even more ruthless at exposing the fragmentation.
Take the game Angry Birds. This has been a wildly popular game on the iOS platform, and when developers Roxio Mobile announced that it was taking the game to the Android platform, fans of the open source mobile platform were overjoyed.
But the fun and games didn't last long.
Yesterday Roxio Mobile posted a message on its website which began by extending an apology to Android users who have experienced issues running the game [emphasis added].
First of all, we offer our apologies to all of our fans who have had trouble running Angry Birds. We thank everybody who has sent their feedback and comments to us - we really appreciate you taking the time!
With our latest update, we worked hard to bring Angry Birds to even more Android devices. Despite our efforts, we were unsuccessful in delivering optimal performance.
Right now we are running even more testing and resolving all the issues we have identified. We are also looking at all of the feedback we have received, and trying to improve the ad performance.
So, what's the problem? It's platform fragmentation:
We are aware that a number of our fans have had trouble running the game on their devices. For example, some older and lower performance Android devices are experiencing severe performance issues.
According to Roxio Mobile, the following devices are currently not supported by Angry Birds:
- Droid Eris
- HTC Dream
- HTC Hero/T-Mobile G2 Touch
- HTC Magic/Sapphire/Mytouch 3G
- HTC Tattoo
- HTC Wildfire
- Huawei Ideos/U8150
- LG Ally/Aloha/VS740
- LG GW620/Eve
- Motorola Backflip/MB300
- Motorola Cliq/Dext
- Samsung Acclaim
- Samsung Moment/M900
- Samsung Spica/i5700
- Samsung Transform
- Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini
- T-Mobile G1
But fear not! Roxio Mobile has a plan in the works ... Angry Birds lite:
We are currently developing a lighter solution to run Angry Birds on lower end Android devices. This does not mean lighter gameplay or a lesser amount of levels, but a game experience optimized for devices with less processing power.
Is this a black eye for Android and a win for Apple and it's unified iOS platform?
Yesterday I noticed that Id Software had released two iOS versions of Rage, its new first-person shooter - Rage and Rage HD. Initially I thought that Rage HD was an iPad-only version (as is usually the case with the "HD" designation in Apple's App Store). However, this isn't the case. However, the HD version will install and run on the iPhone. How well does it work on older 3GS iPhone handsets? Here's what iD Software's technical director and co-founder John Carmack had to say:
3GS with 128 meg will have a few more hitches on the HD version, but it still plays ok.
But Carmack was also clear as to the downsides:
without the higher resolution display of the 4g/iPad, the HD version is somewhat wasted on the 3GS.
Is this an example of fragmentation? Of course it is. Fragmentation exists on the iOS platform too, it's just more subtle.