Google Responds to Criticisms About its Open Android Strategy
Back in January, in our post "Does Android Have a Forked Future?" we explored the fact that Google seemed poised to explore several different paths with its Android mobile OS. Specifically, we noted that with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), Google seemed to be aiming targeted features at tablet developers, while other versions of Android would be more appropriate for smartphones and other devices. Since then, many stories have appeared charging that Google is being less than open with Android, with BusinessWeek publishing several of the widely followed ones. Google is now responding to these charges.
According to a BusinessWeek report, some mobile developers are less than happy with Google's behavior:
"Playtime is over in Android Land. Over the last couple of months Google has reached out to the major carriers and device makers backing its mobile operating system with a message: There will be no more willy-nilly tweaks to the software. No more partnerships formed outside of Google's purview. From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google's most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans."
Now, Andy Rubin, VP of Engineering at Google has a blog post up responding to some of the issues. He writes:
"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...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."
Rubin's post does a good job of making clear that the Google will continue to release Android versions as open source contributions, but there are still issues being raised about the latest versions of Android going to select Google hardware partners ahead of other manufacturers. As Time Techland notes:
"These time-limited partnerships are hugely beneficial to manufacturers, as they get to have the newest Android version running on their hardware before anyone else."
For now, not all manufacturers are receiving the latest version of Android at the same time. That simply remains true. As we've noted before, though, Google has done mighty things with its open source mobile OS, and it is under no obligation to necessarily release every version to every manufacturer at the same time. How many open source platforms and applications are free in one version but are also available in cost-driven premium editions? Google's strategy is very similar to that one, and it's an understandable model.