Developers want platform unity for Chrome, Android

Having common set of coding tools for both Android and Chrome operating systems highly desirable as it will reduce workload and improve portability across the Google platforms, say Android developers.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor on

The current lack of affiliation between Google's Android mobile operating system (OS) and its Web-based Chrome OS, particularly in the different coding languages used to develop apps for the two platforms, will cause "difficulties" for developers once the latter platform is launched later this year.

According to Jose Davis Nidhin, technology developer at ShowNearby, a Singapore location-based services company that has published its app on the Android platform, there is "no relationship" between the Chrome and Android OSes at the moment. They are two completely different platforms serving different user groups, he said.

Furthermore, Nidhin told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that there are fundamental differences in the tools used to develop apps for both systems. For instance, a developer will typically make use of Java, C and C++ programming languages to code for Android, but for Chrome, the languages used will be HTML, CSS and Javascript, he explained.

"So, developers have to maintain two versions of the app [they have created] to serve both Android and Chrome OS users...which makes their lives difficult," he noted.

Another freelance mobile developer, Gunawan Deng, who created the Android-based SG Flight app, added that there has not been much developer engagement by Google to provide guidance on the Chrome platform.

Deng said in an e-mail that Chrome and Android are two different platforms that serve two different markets, and he prefers to continue focusing on Google's mobile OS rather than branch out into another platform.

"[I think] Chrome OS is aiming to foster more cloud-based Web apps. But, I remain excited about working on native mobile apps as the mobile market is not saturated yet," he said. "Besides, mobile apps are more personalized compared to Web apps [for Chrome]."

ShowNearby's Nidhin, on the other hand, is adopting a wait-and-see attitude before committing development work for another OS. Because creating software for new platforms require much resource and time, he said the company will be waiting to see how popular the Chrome platform will be before it decides to port its app over.

"If we see a platform of potential, we will definitely develop something on it," he added.

Platform fragmentation anticipated
Criticism over platform fragmentation, specifically the Android OS, has dogged Google in the past and Chrome OS's entry into the market later this year could complicate matters further.

However, Google's open source and compatibility program manager, Dan Morrill, in May addressed questions about fragmentation and its impact on the Android ecosystem. In his blog post he wrote: "Stories on 'fragmentation' are dramatic and they drive traffic to pundits' blogs, but they have little to do with reality. Fragmentation is a bogeyman, a red herring, a story you tell to frighten junior developers."

When contacted, Google did not respond to ZDNet Asia's questions.

The company on Tuesday said its Android Market now has a database of 100,000 apps available for download. Additionally, market research firm Piper Jaffray forecasted in September that Android will eventually control over 50 percent of the overall smartphone market in the next five years, trumping Apple's iOS in the process.

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