Rovio, developers of the incredibly addictive Angry Birds game, has admitted that it can’t get the game to run with “optimal performance” on all Android phones.
In a blog post, the company listed 17 handsets that are not officially supported, and said it was creating a special lightweight version of the game for these phones. In other words, a developer of a popular application now has to make two separate versions for what is supposed to be one platform.
This is exactly the kind of platform fragmentation that Steve Jobs was talking about during his epic rant on Apple’s last earnings call. And that Google CEO Eric Schmidt denied during his talk at Web 2.0 on Monday. (Video here.)
Every computer platform has shifts that break application compatibility. Apple’s done it with the Mac. Microsoft did it between Windows XP, and has started releasing products like Internet Explorer 9 that won’t run on that 10-year-old OS. In the mobile space, Windows Phone 7 is a total break from the decade-old Windows Mobile.
But fragmentation is a particular fear with Android for a number of reasons:
- The platform has only been in the market for two years.
- It’s already the second-most popular smartphone platform in the world, and seems to be on its way to number one.
- Smartphones are computers, but most users are relatively new to them, and they haven’t started to run into the classic problems they know and hate. Now, the shine is coming off. (Aside: just wait until the first major security breach.)
- Advocates of proprietary software, like Microsoft and Apple, have often claimed that open platforms like Linux and Android are more prone to fragmentation because there’s no central body controlling development. (Argue all you want–just saying that this lends credence to their claim.)
- Android allows carriers a lot of leeway in how they customise the interface. We’ve seen that strategy before–with Windows Mobile. It didn’t end well. (Although Windows Mobile had other major problems as well, like being based on a kernel that Microsoft didn’t update for years.)
Other smartphone platforms will run into the same problems eventually, but at least seem to be taking steps to avoid it. Just today, HP announced that every phone that currently runs Palm’s WebOS will be upgradeable to version 2.0 when it comes out next year.
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