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Google to Change Android Updates to Combat Fragmentation

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It is one of the great unspoken truths of the smartphone industry that Google is known to be annoyed at the continued customisation - and consequently fragmentation - of its Android platform by over enthused handset makers. In fact, the motivation behind the Nexus One was to show users a 'hero' product that could illustrate the evolution of Android without needing to wait for custom skins to be updated. While sales were low, in this regard the Nexus One succeeded - but with handsets around the world scattered between Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 and 2.1 there needs to be another approach and Google believes it has found it...

Speaking to Engadget at CTIA last week, "people whose words carry weight" explained that Google would change the way it releases Android upgrades in future. Instead of pushing out entire new firmwares, it will start to decouple "many of Android's standard applications and components from the platform's core... making them downloadable and updatable through the Market {Android Marketplace}." In addition to this new functionality - such as the multitouch in v2.1 - will also be downloadable meaning users will not need to wait for Samsung, Motorola, Dell, HTC, etc to roll out a newly customised firmware.

Engadget claims this approach will begin over the next two major Android versions - 'Froyo' and 'Gingerbread' - and will coincide with Google finally slowing down the development speed on Android's core in favour of fleshing out apps and features. This sounds wise, given that no matter how much we like Android there remains the sense that the vanilla OS is a bit rough around the edges.

Can Google pull this off? Well, other than dictating that all manufacturers cannot customise Android anymore (I'd back this, but manufacturers would hate to lose their 'differentiators') it seems the most logical step forward. So watch this space...

In related Google news the company has also pushed out Chrome 5 Beta for Windows. Until now only developer editions of the browser had been available and it brings a number of key upgrades to the mainstream. Yes, version '5.0.342.8' is even faster than v4 (it has once again overtaken Opera 10.5 according to several specialist industry sites), but also finally allows extensions to be reordered and shown or hidden at will, meanwhile tab locking and unlocking behaviour has been tweaked (locks tabs are highlighted as you move over them and tabs cannot be automatically locked by accident) and the bookmark manager is better integrated.

In fairness the beta edition of Chrome tends to be very stable and is often a long way ahead of the 'stable' version. Given it also offers the same automatic updates as well I'd always advise you go for it anyway...

Links:
via Engadget
Chrome Beta

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