Google chairman Eric Schmidt talks Apple, Android fragmentation and more

by David Needle

December 6 2012

Schmidt says Google Play has only started ramping up in the past six months.
Schmidt says Google Play has only started ramping up in the past six months.

Eric Schmidt pooh-poohed the issue of Android fragmentation and discussed several other hot button issues in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Although the variety and quantity of different Android-based devices continues to grow rapidly, fragmentation has been an issue for app developers who can’t be sure their apps will work across all the devices.

Google’s own stats show that less than 7% of all Android devices run the most recent “Jelly Bean” version of Android (v4.1 and 4.2 combined) while another 27.5% run the Ice Cream Sandwich version released late last year (v4.03 and 4.04 combined)

The relatively ancient Gingerbread version of Android is still present on the majority (50.8%) of Android devices.

Schmidt told the WSJ (subscription required) that compatibility has been issue “Because some of the phones are down the road. But if everybody's at [version] 4.0 or 4.1, it is in fact compatible.”

Another key issue is that developers generally earn more with apps published at Apple’s App Store than at Google Play. Schmidt said part of the reason for that is that Google Play is just now starting to hit its stride.

“Google Play and the monetization just started working well in the last year, maybe the last six months,” said Schmidt. “The volume is indisputable, and with the volume comes the opportunity and the luxury of time.”

Puzzled by Apple's moves

Apple is involved in several high profile patent disputes with some of Google's Android partners, notably Samsung.

Schmidt said Google's relationship with Apple has "always been on and off."

"Obviously, we would have preferred them to use our maps. They threw YouTube off the home screen [of iPhones and iPads]. I'm not quite sure why they did that," he said.

Competing with its own Android partners

Several years ago Google released its first branded Nexus phone and followed that up this year with the release of its first tablet, the Nexus 7. The search giant also bought Motorola Mobility raising questions as to whether its hardware partners should be worried about its software supplier being more of a competitor.

Schmidt conceded Google is now a competitor to partners in some ways, but in other ways its not.

“When we bought Motorola, I personally flew to Samsung, who's the number-one partner of Android by volume,” Schmidt said. “I told them that the [Android] ecosystem has to be favored at all costs...the Motorola products can't be unduly favored, unless you're also unduly favoring Samsung. If it looks unfair, and then the ecosystem unravels, then it's a terrible mistake.” 

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