CES 2013: Why Fragmentation May Not Be Going Away Any Time Soon

CES 2013: Why Fragmentation May Not Be Going Away Any Time Soon

Jan 10, 2013

When perusing the happenings at CES through various reports, it seems that everyone and their mother is showing off a tablet. There’s a lot of Windows 8 tablets out there, but there’s still plenty of Android tablets. Now, while there’s obviously going to be vendor-specific modifications because that’s just the way things work around here, it definitely appears that most tablets are running Jelly Bean 4.1, and not 4.2, based almost entirely on the status bars that are out there: the combined design where the back/home/multitasking buttons are on the lower left, and the notification bar in the lower right. 4.2 uses a standardized interface across all devices where the buttons are on the bottom (with lots of black space) and the notification bar with clock is on top.

Now, Jelly Bean 4.2 is a minor update to 4.1, but this still means that these devices are going to be a version behind when the next big release comes out. But there’s two reasons why this comes off as particularly ludicrous: one, this is a show for upcoming hardware. Features can and will change. Jelly Bean 4.2 has been out for 3 months. There’s no reason why a device, especially a tablet where carrier considerations don’t have to be taken into account, couldn’t have it by this point.

Second, both Nvidia and Synaptic showed off test devices that are running 4.2. Synaptic’s showing off a technology on a Sensa test tablet that will help detect user touch on thin-bezel devices, doing things like rearranging text. And Nvidia developed a reference tablet to show off the Tegra 4. Both are running Jelly Bean 4.2, from all appearances.

Let’s reiterate: Nvidia has Jelly Bean 4.2 running on a device using a brand new processor. Hardware manufacturers using existing hardware can’t be bothered to get Jelly Bean 4.1 working on it. And Synaptics has a tablet using brand new technlogy and hardware running the latest version of Jelly Bean. While it’s possible that Nvidia got early access to Jelly Bean 4.2 source code as they are a power player with Google connections (the Tegra 3 powers the Nexus 7), there’s no indication that Synaptics got early access, so why are they ahead of the game? Perhaps manufacturers feel more secure in releasing established versions of Android software on their tablets? Still, it just seems like the manufacturers are selfishly prolonging the fragmentation problem on Android, and for what purpose, exactly? It’s baffling.

Carter Dotson
Carter Dotson, editor of Android Rundown, has been covering Android since late 2010, and the mobile industry as a whole since 2009. Originally from Texas, he has recently moved to Chicago. He loves both iOS and Android for what they are - we can all get along!
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