Reports that Google was increasing the amount of control it exerts over handset carriers with respect to UI tweaks and the like garnered a good deal of press and generated some heated discussions last week. These reports were magnified further because they followed word that Android was going to delay the open source release of its Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS. Because Honeycomb was tailored for tablet devices, Google is wary of releasing the code out into the wild where it might end up on smartphones and result in a shoddy user experience.
So those two factors together certainly called into question notions that Google’s Android strategy was as open as they would like everyone to believe.
Responding to such criticisms, Google’s Android head Andy Rubin penned a blogpost on Wednesday addressing a number of concerns and unequivocally refuting reports that Google is not as committed to being open as it once was.
The full text of Rubin’s post is after the break, but one thread we wanted to pull out beforehand is this blurb.
If someone wishes to market a device as Android-compatible or include Google applications on the device, we do require the device to conform with some basic compatibility requirements. (After all, it would not be realistic to expect Google applications – or any applications for that matter – to operate flawlessly across incompatible devices).
So very interesting. If a handset manufacturer wants to include Google apps on a device (which incurs them a licensing fee mind you), they have to meet certain standards to ensure a flawless user experience. Notably, there are no similar checks in place for third party apps. So fragmentation is clearly an issue, just not a Google priority unless it affects the way Google’s own apps operate.
To be honest, it’s really not all that surprising but we thought it was worth a mention in the face of Android diehards who try and explain that fragmentation isn’t a real problem, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Recently, there’s been a lot of misinformation in the press about Android and Google’s role in supporting the ecosystem. I’m writing in the spirit of transparency and in an attempt to set the record straight. The Android community has grown tremendously since the launch of the first Android device in October 2008, but throughout we’ve remained committed to fostering the development of an open platform for the mobile industry and beyond.
We don’t believe in a “one size fits all” solution. The Android platform has already spurred the development of hundreds of different types of devices – many of which were not originally contemplated when the platform was first created. What amazes me is that the even though the quantity and breadth of Android products being built has grown tremendously, it’s clear that quality and consistency continue to be top priorities. Miraculously, we are seeing the platform take on new use cases, features and form factors as it’s being introduced in new categories and regions while still remaining consistent and compatible for third party applications.
As always, device makers are free to modify Android to customize any range of features for Android devices. This enables device makers to support the unique and differentiating functionality of their products. If someone wishes to market a device as Android-compatible or include Google applications on the device, we do require the device to conform with some basic compatibility requirements. (After all, it would not be realistic to expect Google applications – or any applications for that matter – to operate flawlessly across incompatible devices). Our “anti-fragmentation” program has been in place since Android 1.0 and remains a priority for us to provide a great user experience for consumers and a consistent platform for developers. In fact, all of the founding members of the Open Handset Alliance agreed not to fragment Android when we first announced it in 2007. Our approach remains unchanged: there are no lock-downs or restrictions against customizing UIs. There are not, and never have been, any efforts to standardize the platform on any single chipset architecture.
Finally, we continue to be an open source platform and will continue releasing source code when it is ready. As I write this the Android team is still hard at work to bring all the new Honeycomb features to phones. As soon as this work is completed, we’ll publish the code. This temporary delay does not represent a change in strategy. We remain firmly committed to providing Android as an open source platform across many device types.
The volume and variety of Android devices in the market continues to exceed even our most optimistic expectations. We will continue to work toward an open and healthy ecosystem because we truly believe this is best for the industry and best for consumers.