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Netflix launches for Android: faces fragmentation, competition

by Kristen Nicole

The long-awaited Netflix app has finally arrived on Android, marking a new era for mobile video, and the Netflix strategy. There’s a growing line of competitors anxious to take advantage of new on-demand services, particularly in the video sector. But for Netflix (NFLX), maintaining its lead through widespread accessibility hits a snag on Android’s platform. Having already launched for iOS, Netflix’s Android approach is already limited by the myriad of devices its app must support. Android fragmentation has been a major obstacle for Netflix, and the company has moved forward with its launch, supporting only a handful of high-end Android devices.

Netflix limitations for Android

It’s mostly HTC (2498.TW) devices that the new Netflix app will run on, including the Incredible, Nexus One, Evo 4G and G2, all requiring Android 2.2 or higher. Samsung (005930.KS) slips onto the short list with the Nexus S running Android 2.3. The Netflix launch, though staggered, comes just after the Google I/O conference, where the Android platform owner addressed fragmentation with the unveiling of Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s not an immediate solution for Netflix, but the video service intends on making its app available on a wider range of Android devices in the coming months.

Netflix’s obstacles: competition, Android fragmentation

Netflix will have to stay focused if it’s to dominate the Android video on-demand market, with Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG) even launching their own services. Just this week, Google announced a new movie rental service, upgrading YouTube and presenting Android users with another media portal. Amazon, which is also ramping up its personal media cloud services, reportedly has a movie service, Unbox, that will work on the HTC Thunderbolt, inadvertently extending its services to Android devices as well.

But fragmentation still remains an issue for app developers like Netflix, delaying the universality of its service and marketing. While Google continues to make promises to unify its mobile operating system, fragmentation is still an obstacle for many app makers that must now manage an entire portfolio of mobile apps and services. Android’s managed to make waves in the smartphone space, but as tablets become more prevalent, there’s an unavoidable reminder that Android must continue to evolve in today’s market.