Google vows to streamline Android development, combat fragmentation

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Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android engineering team said it is working diligently to ensure that mobile operating system updates are rolled out in a more efficient manner, reducing the fragmentation that has plagued the fast-growing platform since its inception.

Eleven members of Google's Android staff fielded questions from third-party developers during a fireside chat Thursday at Google's annual I/O conference, CNet reports. "[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." According to Burke, layering the Android software enables device manufacturers and chipmakers to implement updates and tweak different software components more quickly, accelerating device updates.

Burke also said that Google is striving to better understand the multitude of Android hardware variations, explaining that many Android handsets sold in emerging markets still run Android 2.2 Froyo and 2.3 Gingerbread (both introduced in 2010) because of device limitations like memory. "We're trying to make Android more efficient so that even entry-level smartphones can use the software," Burke added.

According to Google's Android Developers dashboard, the worldwide Android platform currently encompasses nine different active flavors. Gingerbread leads all versions, running on 38.5 percent of devices--Android Jelly Bean 4.1.x and 4.2.x currently power 28.4 percent of all devices worldwide, followed by predecessor Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 at 27.5 percent.

At the same time, Google said it has no plans to slow the pace of Android innovation or scale back planned improvements. "The camera on a phone tries to emulate a digital camera, which tries to emulate an old analog Kodak camera," Burke said. "The camera is an area where we can do more evolution." Google also is exploring the possibility of shifting some processing work from the main processor to the graphics chip to boost efficiency. In addition, staffers are working to create a smoother Android user experience, building on advances introduced with the Project Butter UI engine, which rolled out last year in association with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Asked by an audience member whether Google has any plans to introduce an emulator allowing developers to port their apps for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS to Android, engineers quickly shot down the idea.

"It seems like a lot of work for a suboptimal experience," said Android engineer Ficus Kirkpatrick. "I don't think that's very interesting." Added Burke: "I was thinking we should go to [Apple's headquarters in] Cupertino and ask them to start emulating Android."  

For more:
- read this CNet article

Special Report: Google I/O 2013: Complete coverage

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