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Android's "do not fragment" clause...

Posted by sean_sheedy on November 7, 2007 at 10:59 AM PST

The OHA members have signed an anti-fragmentation clause. "They've basically agreed not to fragment nor do things that would result in different versions of the platform", says Rich Miner in the PC World interview. And the JCP has that too - called MSA. But as Java ME developers know very well, there are many facets to fragmentation extending beyond the platform and well into the surrounding ecosystem.

A strict "do not fragment" clause is impossible to implement without putting every aspect of the platform and ecosystem through a committee, or relinquishing creativity and possibly IP to a central authority. This is because the other face of fragmentation is called innovation and differentiation.

If many vendors are playing similar roles in the ecosystem then I don't care if there is an anti-fragmentation clause in OHA, you are going to see some fragmentation. Some of this is beneficial: you need to allow new features to appear in devices and new services to be offered. "Fragmentation management" is needed so you don't eliminate the innovative process when eliminating redundancies that appear as a result of that process.

What this clause is, however, is a huge, essential step in the right direction. It establishes a positive spirit of cooperation. It reminds competing parties why they need to be at the table. It justifies discussions on processes throughout the ecosystem, such as application certification, signing processes, distribution, rewarding the creation of new features and services, open issue tracking and sharing, collaboration on documentation and developer support, interoperability testing and "bake offs", etc.

One of my objectives in my candidacy for one of the open Java ME EC seats is to drive the EC to expand its scope to address the areas of fragmentation that go beyond the platform. Having everyone sit down and sign a "do not fragment" statement, no matter how symbolic, is perhaps a great way to set the tone for the collaboration required to do what everyone already wants: turn the symbolism in concrete practices.

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