The Specter of Fragmentation is Back

Google’s compliance with the European Commission’s decision on the Android antitrust case risks increasing market fragmentation and costs for developers and consumers.

App developers and publishers are an economic engine in Europe and globally. In support of the two million Europeans whose jobs and livelihoods are intertwined with the App Economy, the Developers Alliance is closely following today’s announcement regarding how Google will comply with the European Commission’s Android decision.

The Commission’s decision challenged clauses in Google’s Android licenses. As Bruce Gustafson – President and CEO of the Developers Alliance – explained in July, these clauses have led to an open and accessible platform, which “has strongly benefited developers and consumers over the years.  Thanks to market stability and reduced costs, developers have been able to focus on bringing new and innovative products to consumers.” 

The Alliance understands that Google plans to comply by altering contractual requirements in its partner agreements while seeking to maintain an open and attractive Android ecosystem.  As required by the decision, Google will allow its partner phone makers to develop phones in the EEA based on incompatible versions of Android while also selling similar handsets using compatible versions.  

Google’s compliance with the decision raises anew the specter of fragmentation. There is a risk that diverging versions of Android will lead to devices where apps don’t work for users. Developers may also need to do costly rewrites of apps for multiple incompatible versions. Google’s efforts to limit this sort of fragmentation have led to a better platform for users, developers, and phone makers.

The Developers Alliance hopes that clear labelling will help to reduce the potential for user confusion between compatible and incompatible Android devices.