Android to face growing fragmentation threat

With eight or nine OEMs scheduled to release at least 18 Android-powered devices over the course of 2009, the Google-backed open-source operating system faces the growing threat of fragmentation, according to market data and consultancy firm IMS Research. While IMS forecasts Android will ship on more than 43 million handsets in 2014, it contends Google and the Open Handset Alliance mobile technology industry coalition must soon address the fragmentation question, fearing that as more companies alter and customize the Android source code, application compatibility issues will snowball and ultimately push the cost of continued platform development to OEMs and network operators, rather than the Open Handset Alliance.

"One of Android's features that appeals to OEMs and MNOs is that its license agreement from the Open Handset Alliance does not require changes made to the code to be contributed back to the open source community. This allows companies to incorporate valuable intellectual property into their Android handset designs, without forcing them to share that IP with other OHA members," said IMS Research analyst Chris Schreck in a prepared statement. "The flip side of that coin is that it also allows for multiple versions of the platform to exist independently of each other. The large number of handset OEMs who have announced Android-based handset designs have an incentive to differentiate their product from the competition, and those efforts at differentiation can result in multiple platform variants."

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