Android co-founder Miner calls fragmentation fears 'overblown'

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Rich Miner, co-founder of Android--the Silicon Valley mobile software startup that originated the open-source operating system of the same name--contends that discussion of Android platform fragmentation is disproportionate to the reality of the situation.

Rich Miner, Google Ventures Chief

Rich Miner

"I think [fragmentation] is a bit of an overblown issue, frankly," Miner said Thursday at a tech forum hosted by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, Xconomy reports. Miner--who joined Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) in 2005 with its acquisition of Android and helped lead development of the Android OS and ecosystem before signing on as a general partner with Google Ventures in 2009--argued that the size and scale of the Android market makes some fragmentation unavoidable: "Don't forget, there are 1.5 million Android phones being activated every single day," he said. "There are 900 million devices out in the market."

According to Miner, Google continues to improve its working relationships with Android manufacturers and carrier partners, in turn strengthening the platform as a whole. He pointed to Google's quick response to an Android security vulnerability identified last week by mobile security solutions firm Bluebox that allows hackers to modify APK code without breaking an application's cryptographic signature, creating malicious Trojans that go undetected by the app store, device or consumer. Earlier this week, Google began distributing a patch to manufacturing partners to fix the flaw.

"Clearly, in the early days of Android, there was some learning that had to be done between Google and the ecosystem--the handset OEMs," Miner said. "I think Google is much better, as we've seen with the latest security release. Google got a patch out... very quickly to the OEMs."

Miner also believes that most consumers are unaware which version of Android powers their device. "Us techies read the blogs and know what features we may be missing," he said. "I think if you asked a consumer 'Do you feel like your phone OS needs to be updated today?' they're pretty happy with the results and the performance they're seeing. So I'm not sure it's a major issue."

Google's Android Developers dashboard reveals that as of July 8, 37.9 percent of all Android devices run versions 4.1.x and 4.2.x, jointly nicknamed Jelly Bean, up from 33 percent in early June. Version 4.1.x, released in July 2012, powers 32.3 percent of devices, with 4.2.x (issued last November) making up the remaining 5.6 percent. Android 2.3.x now fuels 34.1 percent of devices worldwide, down from 36.5 percent last month. Android 4.0.x Ice Cream Sandwich, issued in October 2011, now powers 23.3 percent of devices, slipping from 25.6 percent a month ago. The remaining Android versions, including 2.1 Éclair, 2.2 Froyo and 3.2 Honeycomb, make up the remaining 4.7 percent of the current Android ecosystem.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook blasted Android fragmentation during the company's annual Worldwide Developer Conference last month: "This isn't just bad for users… this version fragmentation is terrible for developers," Cook said.

A recent Juniper Networks report also blames Android fragmentation for the operating system's security vulnerabilities, noting that the vast majority of devices run older versions of Android, preventing them from receiving new security measures delivered by Google and leaving users exposed to threats.

At Google's own I/O conference in May, Android engineering staffers said they are working diligently to ensure that operating system updates are rolled out in a more efficient manner, reducing the fragmentation that has plagued the platform since its inception. "[Fragmentation] is something we think about a lot," said Dave Burke, engineering director for the Android platform. "And we're working internally to streamline the development process and make the software more layered."

For more:
- read this Xconomy article

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