Overcoming the Problems of Fragmentation Michael Kwan September 3, 2015 Extras Henry Ford famously said that “any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it is black.” This made things a heck of a lot easier for the Ford Motor Company, because they only had one model of vehicle and that car only came in one color. There was no messing around with different paint codes or parts that were only compatible with one car or another. Times have changed considerably since that time. Go to just about any major auto manufacturer and you’ll find a plethora of different models. And under each of those models, you’ll find several different trim levels, a variety of options, and a range of different interior and exterior colors. It’s a lot more complicated for them, but it’s a lot more choice for you as a consumer. The Multiple Personalities of Andy The world of consumer and business electronics is just as complex and, as a result, it can suffer from some rather severe fragmentation. It’s not a unified and uniform experience across the board, even when you look within one specific ecosystem. We needn’t look any further than the significant fragmentation of Android to illustrate this exact point. Android devices come in a huge variety of different configurations with different processors and memory. They have different screen sizes with different resolutions. And they run different versions of Android. Some are on KitKat, others are on Lollipop… and even those on the “same” version of Android can have drastically different experiences thanks to UI skins like Samsung’s TouchWiz, Asus’ Zen UI, or HTC’s Sense UI. From the perspective of the app developer, this can create quite the headache, because you want to accommodate the greatest number of users possible while simultaneously providing the best user experience possible. People don’t want to see a “blown up” version of a smartphone app running on their big-screen tablet, but that has become the case all too often. Fragmentation complicates and frustrates, but that’s the price you pay for consumer choice. The iApproach to Fragmentation In some regards, Apple has taken the Henry Ford approach to the matter, because it has sole control over all the hardware and software. This is true within each singular generation for each specific product, allowing app developers to truly optimize their experiences for that particular hardware. The problem arises, then, between generations. Old apps don’t look right or don’t run properly on new hardware. Developers scramble to support the new screen sizes when a new iPhone or iPad arrives on the scene. That’s a different kind of fragmentation, but it’s fragmentation nonetheless. It means that the app you optimized for iOS 7 on the iPhone will look like junk when run on an iPad with iOS 8. That’s not good for the user and that’s not good for the developer. Can’t We All Just Get Along? The good news is, in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that bad, especially when you consider that just about every company has become cognizant of these problems with fragmentation. Developing a solution that only works with one specific software package on one specific hardware configuration just doesn’t, well, work. It needs to be adaptive. It needs to be responsive. It needs to be platform agnostic. A prime example of this is how Blue Jeans makes video conferencing easy for businesses of practically all sizes, almost regardless of what solutions they may already be using. Cloud-based video meetings between dozens of participants are a cinch, even if these participants are using different infrastructures. It doesn’t matter if one guy is on Cisco, another is on Polycom and another is using Microsoft Lync. They can all collaborate with one another freely. That’s true through a web browser, just as much as it is true on a mobile device or one of those fancy conference room systems. The Future Is Fluid It may have once been the case that change came in giant waves. A new generation of devices would really only come along every few years, forcing users and developers to adjust accordingly. That’s no longer the case. It’s not even on an annual cycle anymore. It’s continuous and never-ending. More and more companies are seeing their software as a service rather than as an end product. We saw the introduction of nifty features like Continuum Mode in Windows 10, and that represented a major shift, but Windows 10 may be the “last” version of Windows we ever get. The platform will evolve through incremental updates rather than get replaced by a Windows 11 in a few years. And perhaps that’s one way to overcome the problems of fragmentation: forcing your users to accept the updates as they come so that everyone is necessarily on the same version. But maybe not… because users will still be on different hardware, different operating systems, different screen sizes and more. To survive in technology moving forward, all solutions must be fluid, open, and cross-platform optimized. Share This With The World!