Google’s Honeycomb OS not entirely open just yet

Mon, Mar 28, 2011


A few weeks ago, I noticed that a friend of mine who happens to be decidedly not into Apple products toting around an iPhone 4. As it turns out, the phone was subsidized by his employer so an Apple user he became.

When I asked him how he liked it, he had nothing but praise for the device, but said he felt icky using it because of Apple’s closed system. He would have much rather preferred, he explained, an Android phone. Why? Because Android is open and that sits better with him.

Well, Google’s definition of open as it pertains to Android may need some tweaking.

While Google’s Android OS for smartphones is publicly available and can be tweaked and tailored to the passing whims of handset makers, the upcoming release of Honeycomb, Google’s tablet OS, will not be made available to outside programmers and will not be customizeable by handset makers.

It’s the throngs of smaller hardware makers and software developers that will now have to wait for the software. The delay will probably be several months. “To make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs,” says Andy Rubin, vice-president for engineering at Google and head of its Android group. “We didn’t want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable. So we took a shortcut.”

Rubin says that if Google were to open-source the Honeycomb code now, as it has with other versions of Android at similar periods in their development, it couldn’t prevent developers from putting the software on phones “and creating a really bad user experience. We have no idea if it will even work on phones.”

Yet Rubin maintains that Android remains an open-source project.

Strange, but here’s the thing. Google isn’t dedicated to being open re: Android for the mere sake of being open. They’re open when it serves their own interests. And I don’t mean that negatively because that’s how all companies operate. It’s about the bottom line and increasing revenue streams. It was in Google’s interest to deploy Android en masse to handset makers and have them go at it. So at the time, the “we’re open” mantra was in full effect. But with Honeycomb a pivotal release for the company, they’re willing to take as many liberties in the interest of being open. At the end of the day, Google’s main interest is expanding the reach of its products and services and generating bigger and bigger profits. And for the reasons laid bout by Andy Rubin, open sourcing Android 3.0 at this time just isn’t a realistic option to meet those ends.

via Business Week



1 Comments For This Post

  1. LizardLiquer Says:

    Somehow I don’t understand the logic of your article by using a iPhone4 person to entrance the “Open” in honeycomb? Maybe???? Google is maturing and doing a bit of “Walled Gardening” for themselves? You know, keeping the Slugs, Nemotods, and Crows out of the “‘comb” till the Queen Bee does her thing. Sort of like the “app gate keepers” of Apple.

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