Google to slow pace of Android iterations

The head of Google's Android effort predicts the company will slow down its Android development cycle, and at some point in the future will only release one major upgrade to the platform every year. The comments, which dovetail with a Google blog post on Android fragmentation, appear to represent an effort by the search giant to address concerns in the Android community over the platform's lightening-fast pace of evolution.

"Our product cycle is now, basically twice a year, and it will probably end up being once a year when things start settling down," said Andy Rubin, Google's vice president of mobile platforms, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News. "Because a platform that's moving--it's hard for developers to keep up. I want developers to basically leverage the innovation. I don't want developers to have to predict the innovation."

Rubin's comments preceded a lengthy post by Dan Morrill, who sought to mollify Android application developers worried about fragmentation among Android-powered devices.

"Stories on ‘fragmentation' are dramatic and they drive traffic to pundits' blogs, but they have little to do with reality," Morrill wrote. "'Fragmentation' is a bogeyman, a red herring, a story you tell to frighten junior developers. Yawn."

Morrill explained that Android developers need to simply list what features their application requires, and then Google's Android Market will present that application to only those devices capable of running it. For example, Morrill said, Android 2.1 and above makes telephony functions optional, so manufacturers can build Android products without calling functions. Those Android applications that rely on telephony functions would not be available to such devices via the Android Market.

"The choice is in app developers' hands as to whether they want to live on the bleeding edge for the flashiest features, or stay on older versions for the largest possible audience," Morrill wrote.

Nonetheless, Google's pace of innovation on Android--the company has released six major iterations of the platform in the span of 19 months, according to Engadget--has left some manufacturers struggling to keep up. In a recent post to its website, Sony Ericsson said its Xperia X10, Xperia X10 mini and Xperia X10 mini pro won't be upgraded to Android 2.1 until the fourth quarter of this year--and the company offered no indication as to whether the gadgets will be upgraded to the newest version, 2.2.

For more:
- see this San Jose Mercury News Q&A
- see this Android developers post
- see this Engadget post

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