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Google planning fix for Android fragmentation?

Android developers have a lot to think about when they design apps, given the different versions of the OS. Google may soon make it easier for them.

Google may have settled on a plan for dealing with Android fragmentation: slowing down and splitting up.

Google Nexus One Android
The Nexus One runs Android 2.1: the fourth Android release in less than a year. Sarah Tew/CNET

Engadget's tour of CTIA last week resulted in conversations with Android followers who report that Google has a two-pronged strategy for dealing with the spate of Android handsets running as many as four different versions of the operating system. This complicates life for application developers, who have to either pick a version or two to target with their application or conduct lots of testing to make sure they can run across Android handsets.

Google apparently has two strategies in mind. According to the report, Google will simply stop developing new Android versions as fast as it has over the last year. Four separate versions--1.5, 1.6, 2.0, and 2.1--have been released in less than a year as part of Google's mad rush to improve Android, and it sounds like the company is more satisfied with its recent progress.

The second part of the plan reflects that maturity: Google is supposedly shifting development away from Android's core to focus on applications and also plans to put more separation between those applications and the core operating system. That means that new applications that arrive along with new operating-system releases could also be downloaded for older phones through the Android Market without having to pass through the handset maker or carrier's approval process.

According to Engadget, Google will start to make this happen during the next release of Android--code-named Froyo--and carry it on through the following Gingerbread release. Google declined to comment on its plans for Froyo.

The reported plan makes sense on several levels: having worked frantically to catch up to the iPhone, Google is in much better competitive shape with the 2.1 release and can start prioritizing developer stability over core features. And, of course, giving users a way to obtain those key applications directly from Google falls in line with its long-term strategy of shifting control from carriers and handset makers to software providers.