Jobs: Devs daunted by Android fragmentation

Jobs: Devs daunted by Android fragmentation

By Rob Crossley

October 19th 2010 at 10:01AM

Appleâ??s indomitable CEO says the long stretch of custom Android devices is â??a messâ?? for devs

Steve Jobs has once again agitated the increasingly tense rivalry between Apple’s iOS devices and Google’s Android alternatives.

The Apple CEO criticised the sheer variety of Android devices and custom OSes available to the market, remarking that this extent of product fragmentation only hinders game and app developers.

“[Android’s] multiple hardware and software iterations present developers with a daunting challenge,” he said in a rare appearance at his company’s earnings call on Monday night.

To illustrate, Jobs referenced he developers of mobile Twitter client, Tweetdeck, who recently launched a custom Android app.

“They reported that they had to contend with more than 100 different versions of Android software on 244 different handsets,” Jobs said.

“Many Android apps work only on selected Android handsets running selected Android versions. And this is for handsets that have been shipped less than 12 months ago.

“Compare this with iPhone, where there are two versions of the software, the current and the most recent predecessor to test against.”

He continued: “In addition to Google's own App Marketplace, Amazon, Horizon and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android. 

“So there will be at least four app stores on Android, which customers must search among to find the app they want and developers will need to work with to distribute their apps and get paid.

“This is going to be a mess for both users and developers.”

Jobs – who, though routinely at the centre of controversy, has become a legend among Apple fans for the company’s transformation under his stewardship – took issue with how Android is being seen as the ‘open’ alternative to iPhone.

“Google loves to characterise Android as open, and iOS and iPhone as closed. We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches,” he said.

“The first thing most of us think about when we hear the work open is Windows which is available on a variety of devices. Unlike Windows, however, where most PCs have the same user interface and run the same app, Android is very fragmented.”

His remarks do not mark him out as a lone faultfinder of the somewhat scrappy range of different Android-powered smartphones.

Mark Rein, the vice president of engine vendor Epic Games, wants to see Google make various improvements to Android.

In an interview with Develop, Rein said Epic is keenly watching all mobile device developments – including that of new entrant Microsoft – yet isn’t completely sold on Android just yet.

“I think [Google] still has a long way to go,” he said.

“I’m also worried that every Android phone vendor seems to have a different user interface than the other. It is unclear whether Google will step in and straighten it out or continue to let it grow out of control.

“Another problem with Android is the carriers run wild with the OS and are adding all kinds of bloatware and not-so-great custom user interfaces.”

Apple last night announced a quarterly profit jump of 70 per cent to $4.31billion – having sold in three months over 14 million iPhones and around 4.2 million iPads.