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Will Moto Fracture the Android Market?

On Oct. 6, Motorola introduced its so-called signature apps for its upcoming devices based on Android software for cell phones. Created by third-party developers including Accuweather, Comcast Entertainment Group and Barnes & Noble, the apps have been especially tailored to Moto devices?menus. And they could offer a glimpse into a potential problem facing Android.

Moto’s signature apps foretell the beginning of a new trend, of handset makers encouraging developers to create Android apps specifically for their devices. Motorola, for instance, promises developers early access to its phones and software tools, and promotion in its ads. The idea is to encourage developers to create apps that work extremely well with Motorola’s new phones. But chances are, these apps won’t work so well on its rivals’ Android phones.

Here’s why that’s a problem: One idea behind Android Market was to create a single pool of apps that work on devices from all handset manufacturers, including Android pioneer HTC, Motorola and Samsung. This gave developers a chance to create one app that worked on millions of devices without having to be tweaked – which is what developers had to do in the past. In the past, third-party software makers have had to make hundreds of versions of the same application, and that made development extremely difficult and expensive. The Android initiative was to do away with that problem, and to help participating handset makers to better compete with Apple, which has been super-successful in luring developers to its iPhone.

Well, now it appears that the Android movement is fracturing. And that might make it less attractive to end users and developers alike. Developers may have to tweak their Android apps for them to work well on various makers’ phones. Users may have to sift through the Android Market searching for apps tailored specifically to their devices. That’s certainly not the end of the world: Sites like offer apps for various handset models successfully. But that adds complexity to the process, and, in many ways, this defeats the purpose behind Android.

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