In an "update from the CEO" letter posted online, Google CEO Larry Page gave a kind of state of the company overview that included praise for Android's rapid growth and innovation on the tablet side.
But Page didn't address the fragmentation issues that critics charge are keeping Google's hardware partners from competing more effectively with the iPad.
Page noted that Android’s overall growth, including smartphones and tablets, now includes over 850,000 device activations each day through a network of over 300 carriers.
Ironically, he touted the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), for its “beautiful interface that adapts to the form of the device. Whether it’s on a phone or tablet, the software works seamlessly.”
What Page didn’t mention is that tablet vendors adoption of ICS since its release last year has been painfully slow. According to the Android developer’s blog, ICS is on a mere 2.9% of Android devices. The so-called Gingerbread, Android 2.3 release, is by far the most in use at 63% while a newer version, Android 3 (Honeycomb), has less than a 4% share. The older Android 2.2 (Froyo) release is the second most popular version at 23%.
This fragmentation is a problem for Android developers because they can’t design apps to run on all Android devices unless they design for the lowest common denominator and leave out features the newest version of Android supports. On the positive side, a number of tablet vendors are set to release upgrades to ICS this month or next.
Looking at the big picture, Page recalled meeting Android's creator Andy Rubin back in 2004, and noted how far the mobile software ecosystem has come.
“At the time, developing apps for mobile devices was incredibly painful.... Andy believed that aligning standards around an open source operating system would drive innovation across the mobile industry. At the time, most people thought he was nuts,” said Page.
“Fast forward to today. Android is on fire, and the pace of mobile innovation has never been greater," he added.
Google has yet to confirm the widely-reported rumors that it plans to sell its own branded tablet, but Page talked up the company’s purchase of Motorola Mobility, which could be part of the plan, though some reports say Google will offer a tablet built by Asus.
“We are excited about the opportunities to build great devices capitalizing on the tremendous success and growth of Android and Motorola’s long history of technological innovation,” he said.
Though he didn't confirm Google's own device plans, Page made a point of saying Google plans to keep Android open to a wide range of hardware vendors.
“...it’s important to reiterate that openness and investment by many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success,” he said. “So we look forward to working with all of them in the future to deliver outstanding user experiences. Android was built as an open ecosystem, and we have no plans to change that.”