Tablet Tier Impact On Users

Earlier this week I wrote about how we are now getting a clearer view on the tablet market with the Nook Tablet announcement, and that we now have low and high tiers in the market. Beyond the obvious benefit of lower prices making tablets more affordable to more people, how is this emerging definition of the tablet market going to affect users?

One of the biggest knocks against Android has been what many claim is a huge fragmentation of Android operating system. Many devices are being sold that run Android, but many of them can be several versions behind what is the current version of Android. The fragmentation problem affects users when they have a phone running an older version of Android and want to use an app that will only run on a newer version.

I personally think the operating system fragmentation issue is overblown by the media, and for the most part users are able to run the handful of apps they want on their phone. Power users who want to run every possible app encounter the fragmentation issue more frequently than the average user.

Unfortunately, I fear that the Kindle Fire and Nook will create a new form of fragmentation driven by different application stores that is far more likely to affect users than the operating system fragmentation. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have their own application stores for their tablets, which is beyond Google’s Android Market. To see the potential problem put yourself in the shoes of a developer.

If you develop an Android app and want it to be available on Android smartphones and tablets, you now have to consider submitting it to three different stores, each of which have their own processes and their own copies of the apps. Clearly developers now have more work to make their product available to the broad amount of Android users, but worse, they now have to keep their apps current at three different stores.

If a developer creates a new version of an app that fixes bugs, they have to submit the new version to each of the stores. I have already heard of instances where apps in the Android Market are much more current than what is available in the Amazon AppStore. I have even heard developers admit they don’t pay as much attention to the Amazon AppStore because it doesn’t sell as many copies of their app. The Fire will likely increase app sales, but that doesn’t eliminate the burden on developers.

As a soon-to-be Amazon Kindle Fire owner I am anxious to see how well apps on it will be maintained by developers. The fact that the Fire will be running a version of Android much older than Ice Cream Sandwich is not going to help matters.