Ballmer takes swipe at Android's software fragmentation


Oh we love it when Ballmer gets feisty, even if his company is the underdog at the moment.

At a UK Tech Days event today, Ballmer gave his spiel about Windows Phone 7 and made some remarks about his competitors, specifically Google. He brought up the whole fragmentation issue, which is sort of a thorn in the side for developers. In short, when an update for Android is made, not every phone gets it, nor does the phones that do get it, get the same version due to OEM customization. When this happens, developers have to update their apps for specific phones to get them working.

Ballmer promised this not to be the case with WP7: "Unlike Google, if you write an app for Windows Phone 7, it will work on all Windows phones" which yeah, is a good selling point to developers. Also, with some humility, on Windows Mobile Baller noted that  "We got ourselves in to a little bit of a pickle with phones, but now we're on track".

Lets hope so, as Google is playing for keeps.


Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Ballmer is the one thing I can't stand about Microsoft. I own the Touch Pro2, which even with a dated WinMo is still a great device. I'm also quite pleased with Windows 7. And I'm even anxious to see some WP7 phones come to Sprint next summer when it's time to renew. But Ballmer almost makes me not want anything MS has to offer. I feel like I have to pinch my nose when buying their products.
  • He's not really off the mark though. Anyone can see the fragmentation atm with Android. It's not in carriers or OEMs interest to update old phones forever, they want to sell you a new device when the time comes. And things break when you're talking about different UIs between OEMs, and also different OS versions as well. MS taking control and make everything standard regardless of what OEM and phone you have is to fight the fragmentation that ended up killing WinMo in the past. Choice is great but for the sake of having it we ended up screwing the system up. Updatings coming directly from MS and sidestepping the carriers and OEMs is also a godsend, I can't wait to see this at work.
  • I agree the strategy of control MS is taking is probably a smart idea. Android is becoming far less fragmented though, with Froyo 2.2 rapidly becoming the predominantly installed version. I just think Ballmer comes across as arrogant, pompous, and other adjectives I'll leave out for now. He's not Bill Gates, that's for certain. My opinion, of course.
  • Fragmentation will likely always be an issue with Android more than Windows Phone 7 simply because Google is being a lot more open with it's licensing than Microsoft is with Windows Phone 7. This will likely improve with Gingerbread but it'll always be something that MS can brag about with WP7.
  • > I just think Ballmer comes across as arrogant, pompous, and other adjectives At times, yes, but he does have to be out there rooting for MS and being the biggest promoter, that is part of his job. Plus, he really, really believe in Microsoft, you have to give him that, he's not faking his enthusiasm. Also, in a recent interview with a Seattle paper, he talked about his profound respect for Google and Apple and how they're 'really great competitors'.
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  • Microsoft should quickly reaffirm this platform advantage by having a platform feature update ready within 3 months of launch.
  • Agreed 100%.
  • At risk of sounding like an Android hater, he could've really extended his jab to the differences in both OS' app stores. While i don't relish thinking about what seemingly arbitrary censorship issues will crop up, i'll feel a little better knowing that apps are actually tested before being made available for download. i love the crazy selection of apps available on Android but i hate the fact that finding a reliable one sometimes feels like a crapshoot when the comments are filled with devices that the apps force closes on.
  • Mr. Ballmer is CEO he is supposed to talk up MS's products and talk down their competitors. I'm not sure MS will every be the top player in the mobile sector they simply sat to long. That being said I could see Wp7 really eating RIM's lunch. With all management tools wp7 is bringing online I could companies dumping BES and going with Exchange (Exchange hosting). I for one will probably stick with Android until WP7 gets a little more mature. Lack of multi-tasking and no option to expand memory is a deal breaker for me.
  • LOL. Anytime someone from Microsoft talks about fragmentation, they need hit over the head with one of the many brand new computers that still ship with Windows XP, or an HD2.
  • I'm pretty sure MS doesn't control what version of Windows computer makers put on their systems. I'm also pretty sure the HD2 doesn't have WP7 and was included in the mention of Windows Mobile. :-/
  • I'm not aware of many desktop applications that requires Windows 7 over XP. Either way, Windows 7 is being adopted 3x as fast as XP and will be the dominate OS very shortly. That certainly not the same as having Android 1.6, 2.1, 2.2, etc all on the market with different programming requirements. I'd say easily 80% of my app updates on the EVO are to fix compatibility issues with *other* phones. That's a waste of developer time and mine (having constant app updates every week is actually annoying, especially since it increases the chances of introducing *new* bugs). And assuming the Microsoft analogy *was* true, it still doesn't make it a good thing for Android.
  • lol. it's easy to talk about fragmentation when you haven't even released version 1.0 of your software. Let's see how the Chasis 2 and 3 phones keep up with Chasis 1, how apps designed for Chasis 1 work on the lower resolution and smaller screens of Chasis 2, and vice versa. There will be fragmentation on WP7. I don't care much about fragmentation; phones get outdated, it's always been the case. The whole hullabaloo about it is overblown. But Ballmer will be proven wrong in the future, and I hope someone notes this article.
  • Well, he must know about fragmentation. I wonder how many devices with WM5 or even oder versions are out there. If there's no ROM from XDA devs (with questionable license...), there's likely no update for almost every WM device... Besides, Android's API is pretty capable of handling different devices - just like the one of WP7. But what's really a major PITA to developers is not really different versions or screen sizes or things like that. It's bugs. And not the ones Google or MS did in the system (because they're easy to find and fix, since they're equal on every device), but the ones in the necessary device adjustments - like hardware and it's drivers.
    True, Android is a bit more risky because it's possible to mess up more code (and on the other hand fix/enhance existing code). But I doubt Steve Ballmer can ensure there's absolutely no bug in any driver or hardware, even with the best certificaton test routines. After all, there are going to be a bit more than 4 devices which he could fully supervise, like that "other Steve"...
  • Fragmentation......Fragmentation means nothing to the millions of average users. Ask the average Joe holding a cellphone what fragmentation is and you'll get a very blank look. Aside from the very small but very loud percentage of pro-sumers nobody cares or even knows what fragmentation is. Most users are far to afraid to even try updating their phone to even care about it. Ballmer has bigger issues to deal with then this. Dave
  • Look at Android Central when they review a game. You have many posts claiming they can't find the game in the market because some apps are hidden for some phones. Furthermore, if you look in the Android app store you will see reviews for games that goes "Worked Great!" and the next one will be "Crashes on X device". There is a huge fragmentation issue on Android.
  • Wait... what? Windows Phone 7 is already fragmented from all legacy Windows Mobile worse than any Android fragmentation. I guess he can get away with it because it's a whole new product. Except that it really isn't being branded that way -- the previous Microsoft offering being Windows Phone 6 and all. Still, let's pretend this reboot is also a reboot of all collective memory of Windows Phone 6 and below. Is Microsoft really saying that three years from now they are still going to support today's phones? Five years from now? When does it end? There will be fragmentation. But who cares? Jesus, it's not that damned hard to deal with. Sometimes you just have to set a minimum OS version level for a shiny new software and that's too bad for the legacy owners. (This post requires Windows XP and above to view.)
  • Wow, Android fans posting here sure seem to be selective in reading. Here, I'll bold it for you:
    Also, with some humility, on Windows Mobile Ball[m]er noted that "We got ourselves in to a little bit of a pickle with phones, but now we're on track". And, as has been pointed out many times before, MS is also looking out for the developers in WP7, not just the consumers or "pro-sumers." Joe-average was taken into account along with Joe-programmer and Joe-mama (you know I couldn't help myself). For the future of Android, you should be glad he mentioned it, so that they can try to reduce fragmentation, as well.