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The price of “open”.

by on January 7th, 2011

I’ve been following – with some part trepidation and some part interest – the continued expansion of the Android operating system from Google as it matures and becomes a more prevalent OS.  Google has released – what? – 4 different OS updates in the last 9-12 months?  Maybe 5.  Each release brings improvements, refinements and more benefit.

A groundswell I am also starting to hear is “fragmentation”.  I first was made aware of this concept after reading an interesting article pertaining to the popular Angry Birds franchise and how multiple programs were being considered to run on different iterations of Android.

M. Alex Johnson – writing for MSNBC – scribes an excellent narrative discussing this fragmentation problem in more detail and I think he hits the nail on the head.  The main gist of his article is that as tablets are released using “today’s” Android OS (Google, right now, doesn’t support the tablet form factor with Android BTW), future OS upgrades for these tablets may be impossible.  So you drop $600 for a tablet today that you can’t update the OS in a few months? Um – what?

He goes on to comment:

If you succumb to the hype and buy one of those tablets, be aware that it’s very possible you won’t have basic built-in apps like GMail, Google Maps and the Android Market, where you go to install new apps and fix omissions like that.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. In the pipeline are Android 2.3 (“Gingerbread”), which is beginning to pop up on a handful of the latest smartphones, and 3.0 (“Honeycomb”), the first version that Google’s building for tablets.

Contrast this with the s0-called “closed” system that Apple has developed for the iPad, that some criticize for lack of flexibility.  The iPad will be upgradeable to the latest iOS for some time to come, no doubt.  Fine, by the time iOS 7 comes out (for example), perhaps iPad v1′s hardware won’t support the upgrade – much like iOS 4 isn’t supported on v1 & 2 iPhones/iPod Touch.  But by then iPad v1 will be 4+ years old and a venerable dinosaur by tech standards anyway, so a hardware upgrade by then is warranted.

Maybe “open” isn’t so great an idea after all.  There have long been arguments that Android isn’t quite as open as Google likes to trumpet anyway, but that’s an article for another day.

Enjoy CES, enjoy the eye candy being displayed but think before you blindly buy the next “iPad killer”, okay?

[MSNBC],[PCWorld]

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