Two Android Operating Systems!?

Oh please tell me there won't be two versions of Android for tablets. Isn't having Chrome and Android enough for Google!?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

I already think there are too many different versions of Android and associated software stacks for Android's long-term good, then I read that Google may be supporting "two parallel [Android] software paths for tablets." Ack! No! Just no!

It seems that the forthcoming Android Honeycomb will require a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, such as the NVIDIA Tegra 2 chip, to work. I can buy that. It's tough luck for anyone using a Samsung Galaxy Tab or a Dell Streak, but that's life on the bleeding edge of technology.

To users ready to blow a fuse because they no longer have the newest and best toy on the block, I suggest that they chill out. Does your device still do what you bought it for? After all, I'm still perfectly happy with my first generation iPod Touch, and it will never see a significant operating system upgrade again.

But, if you're a developer, oh boy, would I be unhappy. It's been hard enough to keep up with all those different "current" versions of Android, the chip vendor's different software stacks, and the devices wildly varying hardware, but now to deal with two different flavors of Honeycomb. Ow. Just ow.

It's not going to be any fun for users anyway. For example, there are no established guidelines for where icons should appear on an Android display. My idea of a good time isn't playing "Where's the application!" every time I pick up a new tablet or phone.

I do get it that it's not easy to move a touch-based operating system to a larger format. It may sound simple, but it's not. Just ask Apple how easy it was to get iOS4 to run on the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad Apple is still weeding out design quirks and, as anyone who uses the iFamily knows, not all applications can run across the devices.

It may be hard work but I think Apple made the right decision in supporting iOS4 across its platform family and depreciating the older versions with every new operating system release. It's made its developers lives a lot easier.

If Google does indeed end up support two concurrent versions of Android, I can see some programmers having fits. And, by the by, where does Chrome fit into all this? I still think Chrome is Google's Linux and cloud-based replacement for the fat-client desktop for ordinary users, but how many cutting-edge operating systems can Google develop at one time anyway?

Hopefully one of my compadres at CES will inform me that, "No, no, Google will only support one mainstream version of Android for all tablets and smartphones." I hope so. Boy, do I hope so.

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