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Steve Jobs called it "fragmentation." Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Chairman Eric Schmidt calls it "differentiation."
Schmidt clarifies the distinction: "Differentiation is positive, fragmentation is negative." Regardless of what you call it, it's the culprit behind why Android upgrades sometimes take so long for users eagerly awaiting the latest and greatest version of the mobile OS.
Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) heavy focus on integration allows it to roll out iOS updates seamlessly in comparison with the staggered updates that the Android army is faced with -- the newest of which is version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, which will ambitiously unify smartphones and tablets.
Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) exec Christy Wyatt recently gave some insight to PCMag on why her company's potential parent-to-be sees holdups. Whenever Android gets a major update, Google only releases a version that's optimized for "whatever phone they just shipped," which presumably refers to its Nexus family that serves as a benchmark for the rest of the Android world. In this case, it would be the Samsung-built Galaxy Nexus.
She added: "Hardware is by far the long pole in the tent, with multiple chipsets and multiple radio bands for multiple countries. It's a big machine to churn." There are so many hardware configurations floating around out there that have different processors and other varying hardware specs that it's not realistic to implement a coordinated global rollout simultaneously.
Even beyond the hardware lies the fact that OEMs and wireless carriers have a bad habit of throwing their own layers of customized software on top in the name of "differentiation," further bogging down the upgrade process.
In contrast, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Phone supports only one processor: Qualcomm's (Nasdaq: QCOM ) Snapdragon lineup. That's a monogamous affair, and Microsoft has no intention of opening up WP's doors to other chipmakers, although it does work with multiple OEMs beyond its main flame Nokia to pump out devices.
Wyatt unsurprisingly said Motorola has no intentions of hopping onboard the WP train, as her company is all Android, all the time. That's something that won't be changing, especially if this deal ever goes through.
With iOS and Android leading the mobile revolution, some winners are hard to see -- because they're buried inside the gadgets. The proliferation of mobile gadgets is going to be breathtaking, and a handful of companies stand to rake in the profits as consumers snap up each year's latest and greatest models. We've just released a new special free report on 3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution. In it, you'll find three companies that supply crucial components that virtually every mobile device relies on. Check it out now -- it's free.