Google declined to comment on Engadget's claim that Google will decouple Android components from core code releases, offering them via Android Market, says eWEEK. In other Android news on eWEEK, the Motorola Droid started receiving Android 2.1 updates, and Google denied that it's sharing ad revenues from Android apps.
Google would not comment on an Engadget report this week claiming that it was considering making applications and components normally integrated on Android smartphones available through Android Market, says a Clint Boulton story in our sister publication, eWEEK. According to Engadget, starting with the "Froyo" release later this year, Google will begin to decouple many of Android's standard applications, as well as some components from the platform's core, such as input methods, making them downloadable and updatable via Android Market. This process will continue through the subsequent Gingerbread release, says the story.
The decoupling would help address the growing problem of fragmentation on the Android platform, which has been released in many different versions over the last year, with different phones receiving updates at different times. Among other problems, this has led to a lack of interoperability, user confusion, postponed purchases, and headaches for app developers. In cases such as the long delays by Motorola and Verizon Wireless in pushing out Android 2.1 to users of the Motorola Droid (pictured), it has even led to publicly vented anger.
By offering Google-developed applications via the Android Market, users won't need to wait for smartphone makers and carriers to upgrade to push out staggered upgrades to those devices, writes eWeek's Boulton. Android users were particularly upset by the staggered availability of the popular Google Maps Navigation and Gesture Search apps, he adds.
Android to reach "maturity" with Froyo?
According to Engadget Google can now start to switch to a decoupled platform because Android is "nearing the end of its breakneck development pace on Android's core and shifting attention to apps and features." With Froyo, the underlying platform, as well as the APIs that developers need to target will finally reach maturity, says the story.
As eWEEK's Boulton points out, the fragmentation problem has grown worse with the arrival of Android 2.1. "Consumers can go to Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile stores and Google's own Webstore to find devices based on four Android OS versions, 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 and 2.1," he writes.
The fragmentation is exacerbated by different cellular network technologies, localization issues, unlocked versus locked versions, and different vendor- or carrier-specific UI layers available on various phones, in some cases from the same vendor. In the case of the Android 2.1-ready HTC Legend (pictured above, at left), Vodafone will offer the handset with both the HTC Sense UI layer, as well as its own 360 UI layer and "push" website, which overlap many of the same social networking related features. And yes, it will be the new version of Sense, not the old one (we think).
The Google-branded Nexus One (pictured at right), as well as the Google mobile Webstore that launched along with it, was widely seen as an attempt to stem the growing fragmentation. Yet, Google's vision of consumers selecting a phone before choosing an operator from the company's store has faltered, partly due to slight differences in frequencies used by various carriers.
Google is now forced to sell and support different versions of the phone, each designed to work on a different network. In other words, even more fragmentation.
Forrester Research's Charles Golvin was quoted by eWEEK as saying that such a decoupling strategy is an idea whose time has come. According to Golvin, developers he has spoken with are comfortable with Android now, but they fear the fragmentation may worsen.
Verizon starts pushing out Android 2.1 updates to the Droid
Yesterday, Verizon Wireless began the long-delayed roll-out of Android 2.1 upgrades to owners of the Motorola Droid, according to another eWEEK story, citing several industry sources. So far, only about 10,000 of the over one million Droids have received the upgrade, but the first large OTA roll-out will occur tomorrow at 11:59 PM EDT when 200,000 should get up to date, says the story. The remaining upgrades are expected to occur throughout the week.
Android 2.1 first appeared on the Google Nexus One back in January. Although it is slated to appear in most of the major smartphones that have been announced since then, Android 2.1 has yet to appear in any other shipping phones that we know of. The release adds pinch-to-zoom and voice-to-text input capabilities, among other features.
Google denies revenue sharing
According to another eWEEK story by Boulton posted on Sunday, Google has denied a report that it is sharing advertising revenues derived from Google's Android apps with carrier and handset partners. According to the story, a Google spokesperson told the publication that it currently only shares sales collected from search advertising.
A MocoNews story last week alleged that the reason for the explosion of Android phones and their subsequent high sales volume is that Google pays phone makers and carriers a portion of the ad sales it collects from Google apps used on those devices. The deals apply only to Android-based smartphones that ship with preinstalled mobile apps from Google, says the publication, which says the story was confirmed from multiple sources. Affected phones would include the hot-selling Motorola Droid, as well as the HTC-built Nexus One, both of which include Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Buzz, Google Shopper, and other apps, says the story.
Neither MocoNews or eWEEK suggests that there is anything illegal in such a revenue sharing arrangement. However, as MocoNews points out, "The deals put Google's rapid accomplishments in the space into a whole new light."
According to Boulton, it would not necessarily make good business sense for Google to share its revenues, even if it did spur on vendors and carriers to put a little extra effort into marketing the Google-ready phones. If the allegations are true, however, it might not sit so well with vendors and carriers selling phones that do not carry Google apps, not to mention those offering non-Android phones.
The eWeek story on Verizon's Android 2.1 roll-out may be found here.
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