With news of another non-Google experience device coming later in the year to leverage Google’s own Android source code but use a different store and ecosystem, will developers continue developing for Google’s own Android platform in the future. We had reported earlier that Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan claims that a phone from a major tech manufacturer would be releasing a phone that eschews Google’s ecosystem much in the same way that Amazon had done with the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, and though Morgan did not mention any names there are rampant speculations on the Internet that such a smartphone may come from Amazon or Facebook.
Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have been experimenting with Android. Rather than skin-deep UI overlays like what HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung have created in the past, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet and the Amazon Kindle Fire both come with heavily skinned overlays that are deep and hides most visible traces of the Android OS. Rather than tying in with Google’s Play Store for content, these two manufacturers have each forged their own paths with their own digital economy; Amazon’s runs deepest with its own stores for apps, books, movies, music, magazines, and TV shows.
Amazon is also showing promise, beating out profits and sales for developers over the native and competing Google Play Store, and we can imagine that the company will be successful if it created a curated smartphone experience by using basics from Android’s source code.
But with Android manufacturers all displeased with Google right now, could we see multiple spin-offs of the Android OS from any number of existing Android licensees? After all, relying on Google’s open source code and customizing and curating it may be a lot less work than developing an entirely new OS from scratch, and there should be still enough familiarity that developers could easily alter a few lines of codes to get their apps compatible with this new variant of the Android OS.
But essentially, what this curated and heavily altered and adulterated Android experience does is to further fragment the Android ecosystem. With apps designed for the Kindle Fire and the Amazon Appstore, developers may have to alter some code to get their apps compatible with the Fire and we would imagine that if more manufacturers spin off from Android to create their own proprietary OS based on Google’s underlying OS that comes with its own digital ecosystem, we would see developers having to tailor their apps specifically for each proprietary OS.
Developers are already having a hard enough time with supporting the multitude of different devices from different manufacturers running different sets of hardware specs all based on the same Android OS right now with its Google experience backing. Spinning off may be a huge risk, and it’s uncertain if developers may be willing to hedge their futures on fragmentation when iOS and Windows Phone offers more simplicity with more limited hardware specs and screen resolutions to design for.