How do you create an open platform that can be used by dozens of hardware vendors and hundreds of software developers without some fragmentation? You don't. Yet to hear all the complaints about Android fragmentation, you would think that Google must either lock down its OS like Apple does with its iOS or try to run it as a Linux-like free-software collective. The former certainly works for Apple, but it doesn't really play to Google's strengths. The latter is pure folly. Instead, Google is trying to walk a middle road here, and, whatever the pitfalls, it seems to be doing a pretty good job so far. Android has 33 percent of the U.S. smartphone market share; not bad for a fragmented OS.
Android fragmentation has been an issue since the platform launched, but it became newsworthy again this week because of a report from Robert W. Baird & Co. In a survey of 250 Android developers, 55 percent of Android developers found OS fragmentation to be a meaningful or huge problem. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say I can't code a lick. And yet, from a developer's perspective, I can certainly understand the issue. Multiple screen resolutions, hardware configurations, and OS versions must be a pain. At the very least, they present a challenge.