Steve Jobs: Integrated vs. Fragmented

Steve Jobs in yesterday’s earnings call:

We think Android is very fragmented and becoming more fragmented by the day, and as you know, Apple strives for the integrated model so that the user isn’t forced to be the systems integrator.

Although there might be some data showing Android is slowing coalescing around a single version, the overall trend is toward fragmentation.* But it isn’t just about the OS. Jobs is talking about the entire experience. Multiply the different hardware with the different versions of Android and you do get a wide variety of experiences for the end user. The same scenario applies for developers:

We also think our developers can be more innovative if they can target a singular platform rather than 100 variants. They can put their time into innovative new features rather than testing on hundreds of different handsets, so we are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as closed. And we are confident that it will triumph over Google’s fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google tries to characterize it as open.

As far as I can tell there are about 25 Android phones. Multiply that by roughly four Android versions (1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2) and you get about a hundred permutations, roughly speaking since not all smartphones can be upgraded. My guess is that most Android developers don’t test their apps on all possible combinations. And that’s the problem: the apps either work best on certain hardware and Android combinations (optimized code) or don’t work very well on any (coded for lowest common denominator).

I used to like tinkering with my high-tech gadgets to enhance what it can do. I’ll let Apple do that for me now so I can focus on getting things done using my high-tech gadgets.

* According to Android Developers Android 2.1 made up 50% during a two-week period ending on June 16, 2010. For the two weeks ending on October 1 Android 2.1 made up 40.4% and Android 2.2 was 33.4%. When Android 3.0 and 3.5 comes around I expect there to be even more fragmentation.