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May 17, 2013

Acknowledging Fragmentation and More with the Android Team

The Google Android team gathered around on Thursday and asked some developers to take a seat and listen. It was the Google I/O development conference where 11 engineers addressed the future of Android by fielding questions from their audience. The main topics of discussion included fragmentation, the future of the camera and how to move forward.

Fragmentation has been an annoyance for developers since the beginning. New versions of the Android OS come out too quickly for wireless operators and consumers to keep up. It might come as a relief to know that Google acknowledges this as a problem.

David Burke, engineering director for Android, admits that fragmentation is something that they think about a lot, and that they are “working internally to streamline the development process and make the software more layered.”

Burke said that the reason we’re seeing new and emerging markets using three-year-old versions of Android may be due to hardware issues like lack of memory. Android, of course, doesn’t require more, but applications that run on the newest versions simply can’t be handled by old hardware. We're trying to make Android more efficient so that even entry-level smartphones can use the software.”

Despite the issue emerging from the continuous stream of Android updates in the first place, the engineers indicated that they have no intention of easing off on the gas pedal. Android is still young and there are many more developments to be made. Burke says outright that developers are going to need to simply test their products on older hardware, not just the newest models, to fight for the best coverage.

Speaking of developments, Burke cites the camera as being ripe for new innovations. This is apt, seeing as earlier this week Nokia tried to leverage the new Lumia 925’s Smart Camera to put its Windows phone into competing space with Android and iOS running products.

Finally, some Android users have wanted the capabilities to run popular iOS exclusive apps. When asked if Google plans to develop an emulator, however, the team replied with expected jabs at their competition. It looks like users who just can’t stand not having Vine on their Galaxy are out of luck.

The fireside chat seemed to be all about doing things the Google way, but the engineers are allowing developers freedom too. The announcement of Android Studio earlier this week will have been welcome to developers looking for a new coding environment, but those not wanting to make the switch from Eclipse need not feel too pressured to migrate. Google wants to include developers, not exclude them.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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