Here comes the HTC Evo View 4G! And it's packing a lot of firsts for its Friday debut on Sprint: The tablet is Sprint's first 4G Android tablet to hit the market, period–that's the first tablet set up to work with the company's 4G WiMax network—around 5 Mbps downloads and 950 Kbps uploads.
Most importantly—for movie buffs—the HTC Evo View 4G is the first tablet to ship with built-in support for Netflix movie and video streaming. In doing so, it joins an exclusive club of Android devices that support the service: A sad list that's currently limited to just nine Android smartphones.
So what's the deal? Are other Android-equipped devices—both phones and tablets—just too slow to run Netflix? Not necessarily. A Sprint spokeswoman confirmed in an interview with Wired that the company performed plenty of testing to ensure that Netflix streaming would proceed smoothly across the company's network.
The more realistic answer as to why you can't yet get Netflix on, say, a Motorola Xoom tablet, is the ugly monster that often rears its head whenever Android upgrades are discussed: Fragmentation. In the case of Netflix, the company has to perform extra research and configuration to ensure that the digital rights management systems it employs work across a number of Android devices. And that's not just a work-once, works-everywhere kind of proposal.
I have been watching Amazon's recent moves involving Android with great fascination. Two weeks ago, it launched the Amazon Appstore that focuses on Android apps, and last week it announced a cloud-based music service with a special version just for Android. Although Google has its own Android Marketplace, Amazon is bringing a more structured store to Android with room for users comments and reviews—a key step to vetting the apps it carries.
This is a very strategic move by Amazon, and it could actually bring some sanity and consistency to the Android development community and all Android users. At the moment, Google's approach to creating Android is scattered. There are so many versions of this OS floating around that the OEMs who license Android are increasingly frustrated with Google's lack of discipline in laying out a consistent roadmap for Android that they can follow.
At first, Google said it would have one version of Android for smartphones and another for tablets. Now it says that it will merge both versions into a product codenamed Ice Cream and that it most likely will be the same OS used on Google TVs in the future as well. Initially, vendors could only use one version for devices with up to 7 inch screens and another one for screens larger then 7 inches but less then 11 inches.
Google on Thursday expanded its Fragments API to applications running older versions of Android, meaning apps that are compatible with Android 1.6 or higher can tap into Fragments to create apps that work on larger-screened devices like tablets.
Though Android has been growing in popularity recently among handset and tablet makers, the main complaint about the OS has been its fragmented nature. At this point, about 57.6 percent of Android devices are running version 2.2, followed by 2.1 at 31.4 percent. About 6.3 percent are still on Android 1.6, according to the Android Developers site.
To address this, Google introduced the Android Fragments API in early February as part of Android 3.0 Honeycomb.
"Android 3.0 further helps applications adjust their interfaces with a new class called Fragment," Dianne Hackborn, a Google software engineer, wrote in a February 3 blog post. "A Fragment is a self-contained component with its own UI and lifecycle; it can be-reused in different parts of an application's user interface depending on the desired UI flow for a particular device or screen."
Netflix posted an interesting blog entry this weekend on which they went behind the scenes as to why there isn't an Android Netflix app just yet. Apparently, it has to do with the fact that Android devices are fragmented, and there isn't a single DRM system across the board, unlike the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 (which both have a Netflix app.) This means that, according to the blog, it's much harder to ensure security of the video content provided by Netflix, which is something that's required by publishers. Still, they are working on it, and now say that they will be able to release an Android app for "select" devices early next year. While there is no mention of which ones, more updates are said to be upcoming.
Read More | Netflix Blog