HTC Hero or Villain for Developers?

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Last week HTC launched their latest Android device, dubbed the Hero. In addition to supporting multi-touch Flash Player 10 content, the Hero has a new UI layer called "HTC Sense." Among other things, it allows the use of widgets to bring information up the UI stack, like Twitter or other applications. It has similar behavior to the Palm Pre in this respect, allowing more end user customization. From a business perspective, it is strategically valuable to separate the user experience from the underlying operating system. That way, HTC can choose to change out Android for Windows Mobile and HTC Sense will still look the same. However this begins the fragmentation of open source code that could disrupt a fledgling ecosystem. For one thing, users would need to wait for HTC and the carrier to release updates. Google Android has made strides last year at the expense of the more prolific mobile OS, J2ME. Both Windows Mobile and J2ME variants suffer from a high degree of code fragmentation. J2ME is slowly dying and MIDP3 is way too late to make an impact. Apple got it right because they control the device and the OS, not to mention making app discovery and payment seamless and carrier independent. Developers will still need to maintain multiple versions of popular applications for Smartphones. We need a stable Android in order to achieve break-through market traction and avoid the developer frustration experienced with J2ME.