From Android to iOS to HTML5, mobile platform fragmentation is rearing its head everywhere.
We last visited the subject of fragmentation in the summer (see: Fragmentation & the Mobile Developer. In those earlier, more innocent days, we were talking mostly about the plethora of screen sizes and device manufacturers an models, and mostly on the Android platform. Apple's iOS is not immune, however, and the products introduced this month don't exactly help the situation. We're even beginning to see fragmentation in the one arena that is supposed to be its cure: HTML5.
Writing on LockerGnome, guest blogger Charlie Kindel dives deep into the subject in his post, The Fragmentation of Mobile Fragmentation. He first defines five axes along which fragmentation occurs, and these provide a convenient framework for out discussion:
Major fragmentation is the rule along all of these axes on Android. Apple is beginning to fragment along Device and Service lines, as we discussed last August: the various older and newer iOS devices differ in their peripherals (camera, etc.), resolution, and processors.
But it's when we look across platforms, at what a developer actually has to do to get an app into wide availability, that we see the true downsides of fragmentation.
Charlie Kindel points out that things will only get worse with the introduction of an Amazon phone (likely), an Apple TV (possible), and very cheap tablets sold at Wal-Mart (a near certainty). He believes that these developments will cause more and more of app functionality to be pushed out to the cloud (as our own Mark Shander has argued on other grounds).
Standards to the rescue?
Again, should we turn to cross-platform frameworks to provide a single set of capabilities across devices? Which framework shall we use? The multitude of choices is itself another kind of fragmentation. Each has its own APIs, its own style of packaging. Portability is nonexistent.
Google's and Mozilla's push to introduce OSs based strictly on HTML5, namely Chrome and Firefox OS, in James's view simply add to the fragmentation in the world of standards-based development.
Looking down the road of mobile app development, it can get a little scary. Do you see any rays of hope? Let's hash it out in the comments.