Release Cycles and Platforms

Interesting article at Engadget about Android and its speedy release cycle (by way of Beyond Search).

The second part of this doubled-edged attack on platform fragmentation comes from a simple reality: we’re hearing that Google may be nearing the end of its breakneck development pace on Android’s core and shifting attention to apps and features. By the time we get to Froyo, the underlying platform — and the API that devs need to target — will be reaching legitimate maturity for the first time, which means we should have far fewer tasty treat-themed code names to worry about over the course of an average year. We like awesome new software as much as the next guy, but Google’s been moving so fast lately that they’ve created a near constant culture of obsolescence anxiety among the hardcore user base — and in turn, that leads to paralysis at the sales counter.

When then hardware is easily accessible (such as in your own datacenter) it is easy to do lots of small incremental released, pushing a new release out should be as simple as running a script (backing down should be just as simple.) When your software gets out on third party devices, this kind of release cycle will lead to fragmentation because users don’t upgrade, or can’t upgrade. This makes life more complex for third party developers who now need to figure out which releases they can run on. Ultimately you need to slow down your release cycle and create a predictable ecosystem for the developers to work in. Apple for example is only a yearly release cycle with the iPhone platform (in sync with new hardware), and a two yearly release cycle with Mac OS X. This makes life easier for developers and users too.

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