Android Fragmentation

Android is fragmented and geting more so. This is a challenge for those that develop on it for sure and has been often cited as a big negative for the Android ecosystem. But it also a big plus.

I have a Kindle Fire on my bedstand. I use it primarily to read on in bed having moved to a Nexus 7 as my primary tablet device. The Kindle Fire uses Android as its OS and then puts a Kindle shell on top which makes it look and feel like something other than an Android. But almost every app that I have on my Nexus 7 is also on my Kindle Fire. The reality is that if you build for Android, you are also building for Kindle Fire.

When Amazon launches a phone, it would be my expectation that the experience will be a lot like Kindle Fire. Meaning it will be running Android with a Amazon designed shell on top.

And then there is Facebook. I have to believe that Facebook will build a phone in the same way. Start with Android and then put its own wrapper and apps on top. If that happens, I would imagine I would be able to run all my favorite Android apps on the Facebook phone.

So imagine a world in which three of the top four consumer tech companies have phones running Android. Does that sound like a fragmented world for Android? Yes. Does that sound like a recipe for having a massive number of Android devices out there to build to? Yes.

In my view, we are in a two OS world for mobile and I think we are going to stay there. I think Apple will own the high end with the best and most integrated experience. And I think Android and its many variants will own the rest of the market. I think everyone else is playing for crumbs in terms of market share and would be better off joining the Android variant parade.

What does this mean for developers? It means build for iOS and Android and ignore everything else. And I think it increasingly means you have to be on both iOS and Android as soon as you can. I have advocated for building for Android first and iOS second. I think that strategy will start making more and more sense for apps that aren't looking to be paid.

Fragmentation cuts both ways. It's bad and it's good. Long term, I think it is a big plus for Android.