One of the biggest problems for the long-term success of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) mobile operating system — Android — is also partly the reason why the platform has been so success: its fragmentation. In pursuing the best possible user experience for its mobile operating system, Google took a philosophically different approach from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).
Where the iPhone restricts hardware and software standards to maintain high quality, Google allowed the design of Android to be guided by an open-source design strategy, giving the software away for free and enabling hardware manufacturers, carriers, and app developers to make their own improvements to the software. We “wanted to make sure there was no central point of failure, where one industry player could restrict or control the innovations of any other,” explains Android Open Source Project. “Android is intentionally and explicitly an open-source,” and the “objective is a shared product that each contributor can tailor and customize.”
However, because so many different original equipment manufacturers, OEMs, use their own uniquely modified version of Android, it is difficult for Google to quickly implement needed changes. When Google releases a new version of the operating system, it takes manufacturers — like Samsung (SSNLF.PK), HTC (HTCKF.PK), 9 (LGEAF.PK), and others — several months before the updates reach consumers. These manufacturers heavily modify Android to suit their needs, so every time a new version of Android is released they must first tailor it and then test it before passing along the updated software. As a result, the newest software operating these manufacturers’ handsets are often two or three versions behind.