Business | June 28, 2012
Android: The Path to Unification. Its Here!
During my keynote presentation at COMPUTEX Mobile Forum 2012 in Taipei, I spoke about application development on Android today. In contrast to the often negative portrayals of todays Android apps development landscape, I wanted to offer a more positive point of view, highlighting the significant progress that has been made towards unification.
We often hear in the media about the pitfalls of Android fragmentation. To be sure, Android apps developers have struggled with creating portable applications that work across devices and OS versions. Developers have also struggled to gain traction and make money in an open apps marketplace with no prescreening and low prices. Recent data from Flurry Analytics shows that for every $1 a developer earns on iOS, he or she can expect to earn 24 cents on Android. Ouch! Despite these very real challenges, Google has taken many actions to address developers concerns, and solutions are in effect. During my keynote at COMPUTEX, I outlined these actions along with other factors propelling Android towards unification and a more streamlined apps development landscape. Lets go back a couple years, about five if you can believe it. Steve Jobs liked to think different, and his companys work resulted in a fluid operating system with best-in-class hardware and the iTunes ecosystem - true vertical Apple style. Googles Andy Rubin, on the other hand, wanted to drive the proliferation of apps across all types of devices, from all types of manufacturers - a more horizontal challenge. This was a daunting task given the amount of variability in architectures, IP technologies, screens, capabilities, costs, geographies etc. In a sense, Google took on the fragmented ecosystem that already existed, with the singular goal of unifying it while still allowing for companies to differentiate. The first significant step towards unification came in December 2011, with the release of Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich'. This version of Android was the first to merge phone and tablet APIs into a single UI theme called Holo, that is portable across OS versions and devices. Google has taken many additional steps to unify the Android development landscape:
- The creation of workshops and training sessions to help developers (and OEMs) maximize portability, such as the Android Training in Dec 2011. Unified design principles in Android help developers code once - regardless of device - with the use of layouts and fragments.
- The launch in Feb. 2012 of a dedicated Android Design website to help developers ensure that their content looks good across a wide variety of devices.
- The creation of a rigorous and constantly improving compatibility test suite (CTS) and accompanying compatibility definition document (CDD) to certify devices that meet the highest quality of API standards (over 25,000 tests).
- Malware Blocked: Malware (or rogue applications) are now constantly scanned for and are immediately blocked or removed.
- Expanded Availability: Google Play is now available in 130 countries, increased from 30 last year. A big leap! More eyes on the content - more monetization potential.
- In-App Purchasing Improvements: More and more apps are moving to this model. Consumers trying to purchase an app on the go (or at home) are much more likely to do so if they dont have to pull out their credit card. With iOS, new app purchases are automatically billed to a consumers iTunes account. This is now a growing movement in Android too.
- Auto-renewing subscriptions and one-off payments: Auto renewals allow content providers (such as magazine and comics subscriptions) to provide their content to consumers on Android tablets and phones with automatic monthly billing.
- Direct Carrier Billing: Direct carriers who provide billing have expanded from two to 15 carriers since last year. This allows app purchases to appear on the consumers carrier bill.
- Improved Architecture Filtering: With MIPS now officially supported by Google in Android, the market needed to show only compatible apps. This allows for a superior user experience.
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