I've written recently that Android's fragmentation problems are slowly receding. Now I'm not so sure.
The news today is that KitKat, the latest version (4.4) of Android, has been downloaded to 1.1% of active Android smartphones and tablets. One tech news site even used the world "already" in its headline for this story, as in "KitKat Installed on 1.1% of Active Android Devices Already" (although the headline has been changed since publishing).
As an Android device owner, I'm afraid I can't share this implied enthusiasm. KitKat was unveiled on October 31, nearly five weeks ago, and only slightly more than 1 in 100 Android smartphones and tablets have the long-awaited OS?
Contrast this with Apple's iOS 7 upgrade. Cupertino released its latest mobile OS in mid-September. Based on numbers from mobile web and apps analytics vendor Mixpanel, iOS 7 reached 35% penetration on Apple mobile devices in 24 hours. Five weeks in (where KitKat is now with its 1.1%), it was at 72%. As of today, iOS 7 is running on 79.44% of iPhones and iPads, with iOS 6 powering 17.9% of Apple devices. Older versions of iOS are running on only 2.64% of iPhones and iPads.
Meanwhile, here's an Android version breakdown through December 2:
Jelly Bean (4.1-4.3) -- 54.4%
Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) -- 18.6%
Honeycomb (3.0) -- 0.1%
Gingerbread (2.3.3-2.3.7) -- 24.1%
Froyo (2.2) -- 1.6%
Kitkat (4.4) -- 1.1%
It's great that KitKat has in its sights a version of Android (Froyo) that was released in May 2010. If this adoption pace holds, KitKat will surpass Ice Cream Sandwich sometime in 2015. I can't wait!
Realistically, there currently are three versions of Android in widespread use (KitKat's not on the list yet). But the truth is there are far more, if you count the multiple carrier-specific and device-specific modifications under each Android version's delectable name.
The source of Android fragmentation naturally is based on Google's business model for its mobile OS, which is to allow manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, and Sony to roll their own versions. Which means updates may not roll out at once.
KitKat's a perfect example. It's available on the new Nexus 5 smartphone (also released on Halloween), and is rolling out to other devices such as the Moto X, the Nexus 7 tablet, and the Google Play editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. But who knows when Samsung, HTC, Sony and LG will begin serving KitKat to Android owners under contract to carriers such as Verizon and AT&T.
That's frustrating for Android owners -- I now have KitKat on my Nexus 7, but have no idea when I'll get it on my HTC One (which is what I'm really waiting for).
For enterprise IT pros, these slow rollouts on top of existing fragmentation probably cry out, "Avoid at all costs." Why bother with the hassle?
I do believe that attitude will change as Google continues to integrate security features and other apps into the Android core, as it has done several times this year, including the integration of numerous Google productivity tools into KitKat. But a lot of enterprise pros might not even be aware of these core upgrades, so continuing to avoid Android might make sense to them.
Which is too bad, because between KitKat and other changes this year, Android is in a far different -- and better -- place than it was two years ago when it comes to enterprise users.