Pay Attention to Software Fragmentation
Not only are developers contending with frequently released operating systems and versions, the back log of versions that need support isn’t shrinking as quickly as most teams would like.
The old standby browser, Internet Explorer, is famous for having users who aren’t the quickest to update. Despite repeated rumors of its demise, IE6 is still kicking ever so slightly (with less than 1 percent of IE market share), according to stats from W3Schools. Internet Explorer’s market share is mostly spread across versions 8-10, though IE 10 hasn’t quite caught up to the others. To cover the entire fragmentation of Internet Explorer, organizations need to test on five different versions.
In the mobile world, things aren’t any better. We’re up to the seventh major version of the Android operating systems (with several sub-versions mixed in). If developers want to support all versions with a sizable market share, they need to account for Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jelly Bean—all of which have more than 25 percent of the Android distribution. While it pales in comparison to the big players, Froyo still accounts for nearly 4 percent and even Eclair has almost 2 percent. Total: Three major versions that definitely need support and two older versions that should possibly be considered (location and popular device manufacturer of your target market will be a major deciding factor).
iOS is less forthcoming with their distribution stats but David Smith took a look at the users of his Audiobook app to give people a general idea of what the overall version distribution might look like.
On all mobile platforms—iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch—users are overwhelmingly (more than 80 percent of users) using OS versions 6+. Stepping down a major version adds another 10 percent. Anything lower than OS 5 is pretty nominal and developers like David have stopped supporting these versions (which each grab 1–2 percent.)
Audiobooks no longer supports iOS versions prior to 4.3.0. The population below these limits was below four percent when support was dropped. Residual usage will occur at these OS versions but no new customers are being added.
Now for the kicker. Windows XP was released twelve years ago and is still in use—by a lot of people. From CNET:
Microsoft’s XP operating system is still used on more than a third of the installations out there, according to figures from Net Applications.
It’d be difficult to support all past versions of software and the hope is that if enough developers stop supporting it eventually these holdouts will update. In the meantime it’s important to pay attention to the version distributions in your field—be it mobile, desktop or web—and support as many versions as have significant users.