Google’s planned acquisition of Motorola Mobility for about US$12.5 billion doesn’t change things for developers right away, but could have implications in the future, according to Carolina Milanesi, research vice president of consumer devices at Gartner.
The fragmentation issue – different development standards for different mobile devices using the Android operating system – should be one of the developer pain points eased with this acquisition, according to Milanesi, although she added it will not solve the problem all together.
“Motorola devices will set the bar for competitors in the Android space, but Google will still need to work with Samsung and HTC in Europe,” Milanesi said, adding that Motorola doesn’t have as large a presence globally as it does in the United States.
“Stock Android will always have the latest and greatest updates first,” Michael Gartenberg, research director of consumer technologies at Gartner, said, adding that after the acquisition, Motorola devices will likely be running the basic operating system without proprietary add-ons. This means that should HTC or Samsung or any other device manufacturer decide to put a layer over Google’s Android, they will have to worry about whether or not developers decide to support their version.
Tony Hillerson, software engineer at Effective UI, which develops applications for iOS and Android, predicts that the acquisition is really more immediately exciting for consumers.
“We know that the iPhone user experience benefits greatly from Apple’s control of the hardware chain, and now Google is one step closer to that. That means [Google doesn’t] have to rely on handset makers as much to have their Android vision become real. [Google] can have a flagship line of devices that show everyone exactly how it means for the Android experience to be without other manufacturers wanting to taint the experience just to differentiate their handset from other manufacturer’s handsets,” Hillerson explained in an email.
Developers, Hillerson said, will have more control over the Android experience as well, without the additional steps they take today to maintain a seamless experience over a variety of devices.
“Where it affects developers is that once Google can get more control over the Android experience, without any middlemen tweaking things on one line of devices at least, then it may become more likely that there are less differences in the experience within the same class of devices from one device to the next. These are differences that may affect how the developer’s app looks, feels, or works, and is part of the problem of fragmentation,” Hillerson explained in an email.
Wallace McClure, owner of Scalable Development, another app developer, also feels the fragmentation problem.