In an interview with PCMag (via Engadget), Google engineer Andy Rubin discussed Android, market fragmentation, and even Windows Phone 7. In what was probably a spur of the moment statement, Rubin stated that he thinks that the world doesnt need yet another mobile phone platform. The way Rubin sees it, the only reason someone would even try to create a new platform is for political reasons. Maybe he has a point. More OSs mean more fragmentation in the market, more phones that developers have to choose between, more chances of incompatibilities, etc. Many of us clearly remember the pre-Windows world of desktop computing and the annoyance that came with finding out that you cant get the software you want on your machine.
When Android was first announced, Apples iOS was taking the world by storm, Blackberry was getting into the ‘touch" scene, Symbian was doing OK, and Microsoft had a small share too. At that stage no one knew they needed Android, and there were already plenty of OS options. Since that time, the market has become even more complex with Samsung throwing in a new in-house OS (Bada), and soon Microsofts going to be launching their Windows Phone 7 platform - but its still Windows Phone. Microsofts replacing the old Windows Phone with a new (very different) version, theyre not a new player with a new brand. Claiming that the world doesnt need another phone OS seems a little strange to me when you work for a company that made a completely new OS, and youre trying to brush-off a competitor thats heavily revising their OS.
On the topic of fragmentation, Rubin shared the views of most consumers and claims to want OEMs to use the latest Android versions instead of out-dated builds. Of course, Googles long-time competitor Microsoft would be able to tell them a few stories about OEMs not giving up on old software versions. In fact, Windows XP might be the case study that Google needs to learn from. The biggest reason for XPs prolonged (zombie-like) existence isnt because people dont like change, and its not because people dont want to upgrade their hardware. Its because so many companies put so much time and effort into building applications for XP - and it takes a long time for those companies to decide that its worth the money to rewrite huge amounts of code. Android, which has gone through a number of version changes since birth, may be suffering from a similar fate. Perhaps Googles way out of the fragmentation mess is to change is to give developers more of heads-up, that way theyll be able to code with future changes in mind and not be stuck with a customization that only works on one build.
What do you think about Andy Rubins comments? Is Windows Phone 7 going to add that much more confusion into the mobile marketplace, or is it already so full of competition that it wont matter?