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Google Compels Operators to Ease Fragmentation

Sarah Thomas
5/10/2011

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has summoned its wireless operator and handset maker partners to help it tackle fragmentation, announcing Tuesday new guidelines around how quickly devices are updated after a new platform release.

Founding partners that have agreed to the guidelines include the U.S Tier 1s Verizon Wireless , AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US Inc. ; European operator Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD); and handset makers High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498), Samsung Corp. , Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications , LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). Most of the companies are also members of Google's Open Handset Alliance .

The group has agreed that all new devices they offer will receive the latest Android platform upgrades for 18 months after the device is first released if the hardware allows. Google said on its official blog that this is just the beginning, and it invited other companies to join the movement to defrag.

Why this matters
Fragmentation on Android is a big issue as LR Mobile has outlined on a weekly basis in the OS Watch series. Google issues updates to the operating system relatively frequently, but then it is up to the device makers and operators to pass the update along to consumers. Oftentimes, updates will only make their way to select devices, and operators or device makers can drag their feet. Some phones may never see the update.

For example, Android 2.3, Gingerbread, was released in December, but still hasn't made its way to most Android phones. And, Android 3.0, Honeycomb, is only available for tablets. This especially irks developers who want to take advantage of the latest and greatest OS features without alienating consumers that run earlier versions of Android.

Committing to upgrades for 18 months is just the first step, but if Google can really get all the major handset makers and operators to cooperate, this initiative could prove to be a positive change for the entire Android ecosystem.

For more
The defrag team was just one of many announcements Google made Tuesday at its annual I/O conference in San Francisco. The software giant also launched a new cloud-based music service, unveiled its latest OS update, Ice Cream, and a new device, dubbed Project Tungsten, that makes Android the central hub for home automation and connected devices. Here's more:



— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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