With Android adoption reaching new heights, everything should be peachy for developers looking to produce apps on the Unix-based platform, right? Well, not exactly.
Like the Blackberry, whose multiple versions across multiple handset models make it a tough environment to build tools for, Google's open-source Android is creating the same frustration among application developers. Now available on 12 different phones from a variety of manufacturers, each running either OS version 1.5, 1.6 or 2.0, you can imagine the challenge.
If a developer builds an app specifically for the Motorola Droid, for instance, taking into account its specific hardware set, OS tweaks and Android 2.0, it's very possible that the app will end up buggy on other Android devices, such as the Droid Eris (Android 1.5 with Sense UI). According to Froogloid co-founder Chris Fagan, “You may build an app that works perfectly with all three firmwares, but then when you run it on carriers’ ROMs it completely blows up.” When app is bug-ridden for a particular handset, it can get voted down in the Marketplace - a potentially sales-destroying predicament for many small businesses.
According to developers, they end up investing time and money tweaking their software to work on different Android implementations, rather than using it to improve their apps' features. As a result, small-time developers (e.g. one-man coders) either end up spending all their time maintaining the app for all hardware and software variations or abandoning the platform altogether. After all, the iPhone's strict, tight-grip policies have kept it free from similar complications. So why not just keep developing for them?
What can Google do to fix the mess that Android is fast becoming? We're not sure, as the platform has been built specifically to allow for manufacturer tweaking. That's only twelve phones right now. Imagine what will happen when all the new phones, UMPCs, netbooks and tablets being planned for Android begins to hit store shelves next year.
One thing's for sure: something needs to change. Otherwise, projections of Android's success following the path of the iPhone's App Store may prove falsely inaccurate.
[Quote via CNET]