It seems to be research release season and ABI has also reported numbers for smartphone shipments. However, this time we have a breakdown of what proportion of Android is forked (AOSP). That is, Android devices that aren’t sanctioned by Google, haven’t passed compatibility testing and don’t have Google Apps and Google Play Services (at least not legally anyway).
UPDATE: Changed value from 41% to 29% as the first row in the table, despite its generic naming ‘Android’, doesn’t include the second.
As you probably know, Google have made Chromecast available in 11 more countries (Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the U.K). The SDK is available for Android and iOS developers. The idea is that developers add the SDK libraries to existing apps to allow content to be viewed on the TV. More information is available in the Developers Guide.
One of the advantages of Chromecast over Apple TV is that the latter only works with Apple devices. Chromecast works from iOS, Android and the Chrome browser in laptops/desktops (Mac, Windows and Linux). This offers a new wide-ranging outlet for media owners.
Surprisingly, Chromecast on Android is more limited than on the other platforms. The Android SDK relies on Google Play Services (4.2+) which means Chromecast apps won’t work on AOSP (non-Google sanctioned) devices. This means it won’t work on forked versions of Android such as the Kindle Fire, Nokia X and many inexpensive Chinese tablets. Media owners such as the BBC are concerned about this and say, particularly of the Kindle…
"We recognize that the Kindle is an important device for BBC iPlayer in terms of usage and we have, on behalf of our users, asked Google to do what they can to support this platform."
It’s an interesting dilemma for Google. Should they relax access to Chromecast thus enabling the types of device, the use of which, they wish to discourage. I suppose the answer comes down to this – What’s more important for Google, Chromecast or Android?
The Guardian has an article by Charles Arthur on how "Satya Nadella must kill Windows Phone and fork Android". While I agree Microsoft’s Windows Phone efforts are doomed, I don’t think forking the OS would be as simple as it seems. Charles says…
"Most useful of all, developers who have written Android apps would be able to port them over with minimal effort"
I am the side of VisionMobile who say, in their latest Developer Economics Report, that…
"Google has moved 10s of its own apps and APIs outside the Open Source android Project (AOSP) so that Android apps that rely on certain Google apps and APIs – including Calendar, Location API, Maps, Push Notifications, Account syncing & authentication – will not run directly on forked versions of Android, unless explicitly modified for the forked OS version. Most developers will not invest the extra effort required to port their apps unless porting gives them access to 10s of millions more devices or markedly higher revenues per user."
I suppose the question is whether Microsoft’s use of Android would provide for "10s of millions more devices". It would be a ‘chicken and egg’ situation similar to which Microsoft already finds itself with Windows Phone. It’s very difficult to grow the market unless you are one of the first in the market.
UPDATE: ArsTechnica has posted a contentious article Neither Microsoft, Nokia, nor anyone else should fork Android. It’s unforkable. Also read Google’s Dianne Hackborn’s defensive response.