Will Google Stay Committed to an Open Android Strategy?

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 22, 2011

Back in January, in a 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, and it's generally accepted that Google won't necessarily release the newest version of Android to all hardware developers at once. With Google's Motorola Mobility acquisition, how likely is it that Google will pursue an even more closed Android strategy?

Google has responded to charges that it isn't pursuing a completely open Android strategy. Andy Rubin, VP of Engineering at Google put a blog post up a few weeks ago responding to some of the issues:

"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."

There are some questions being asked about closed vs. open strategies now that Google will control a major handset player in Motorola Mobility, though. On The Register, Matt Asay notes this:

"But with its Motorola Mobility acquisition Google's open source balancing act just got a lot harder. Google will have every temptation to close off Android in an attempt to out-Apple Apple...All of which is not to say that Google has not done the right thing by buying Motorola Mobility and its hardware assets, but rather to suggest that the temptation to close off the Android process has grown by leaps and bounds with this acquisition."

Indeed, Motorola phones running Android may very well be privy to the latest versions of the OS, while other Android phone and tablet makers have to wait. That would be one of several ways that we might see Google leverage its newfound ownership of a major handset maker.

In announcing the Motorola Mobility acquisition, Google officials made assurances that they are committed to an open Android mission. Let's hope Google sticks to that, because a primarily open strategy was what made Android achieve so much success, so quickly.