Android forking "is fine" says Schmidt, we don't sue like Apple

The Android team predicted forking in the ecosystem, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said today at Mobile World Congress, taking the opportunity to snipe at Apple over the company's litigious tendencies. "We understood that this stuff would happen ... and it's fine" Schmidt said, explaining that while Google hoped that those manufacturers not sticking to the search company's official guidelines for Android would realize the potential benefits, "We don't sue them... if you get my drift."

The Google chairman had been asked about the growth in Android devices, and whether that growth had been undermined in any way by the number of manufacturers using their own, customized builds of the OS. Not so, Schmidt insisted: that's part of the open-source ethos, and something the Android team fully expected to happen.

Schmidt's comments echo those he made in mid-January, in which he suggested there was no such thing as fragmentation, only differentiation. At the time he suggested that "differentiation is positive, fragmentation is negative."

Whether that will continue to convince users, most of whom are still waiting for their Android upgrades to Ice Cream Sandwich, remains to be seen. Timely updates is one of Google's manufacturing partners' biggest challenges in 2012, something that – despite Schmidt's jokes at Apple's expense – iOS owners don't really have to worry about.