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Android's head honcho, Any Rubin.  (Source:
Beginning to clamp down on fragmentation, seeks oversight

Ever since Google introduced the Android mobile OS to the world in the fall of 2008, the company has advocated an open-source approach to its development and implementation. On one hand, this attitude helped fuel Android's auspicious growth. On the other hand, it also resulted in a fragmented OS. Now, Google is beginning to rein in the rampant tweaking of the software, in an effort aimed at uniformity.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that Google over the last few months has sent this message to the major carriers and device manufacturers that support Android: Playtime is over. Google, particularly Android head Andy Rubin, will have oversight of any future Android partnerships, and anyone who wants early access to the latest iteration of the software will need to seek permission from Rubin himself.

"The Google that once welcomed all comers to help get its mobile software off the ground has become far more discriminating—especially for companies that want to include Google services such as search and maps on their hardware," Bloomberg reports.

Ostensibly, Rubin predicted the fragmentation that would follow a platform as open as Android. That's why the company chooses a chipmaker and device manufacturer when it launches a new product, to show off what it can accomplish. In the past, it was Qualcomm and HTC -- both companies have made huge market gains as a result. 

According to several sources for Bloomberg's report, Google has demanded that Android licensees abide by "non-fragmentation clauses" that grant Google the final word on customization matters. It also means they need approval from Google to partner with others. John Lagerlin, director of global Android partnerships, told Bloomberg that it's about quality control and aiming towards a "common denominator" experience.

And while Rubin claims that a clause has always been part of the license, sources say that Google has been clamping down in recent months. Facebook, which is trying to launch its own Android device, has reportedly been unhappy because of Google's oversight. Google has also gotten involved with an upcoming Android phone from Verizon that incorporates rival Microsoft's Bing search engine, holding up its release. 

This policy has reportedly resulted in complaints to the Justice Department. Google declined to comment on this aspect.

In addition, Google has also begun to withhold code from the public, which hurts developers and smaller companies. According to Bloomberg, Google will not release the source code for the tablet Honeycomb OS anytime in the near future. 

"The premise of a true open software platform may be where Android started, but it's not where Android is going," Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop told Bloomberg. Elop, a former Microsoft executive, recently established a "strategic partnership" with his former employer instead of Google because, he says, he would be able to innovate more with Windows Phone 7 than Android.

"Microsoft often got criticized for treating all partners the same, whether they were doing great work or mediocre work," Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told Bloomberg. "Google seems to have no problem with playing favorites."

The bottom line from the report: "Despite grumblings, Google's Android mobile operating system is still open—it's just getting more heavily policed."

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By quiksilvr on 3/31/2011 9:18:41 AM , Rating: 5
Customization of the OS should be a REMOVABLE APP or have the option to disable it if you wish.

Samsung? Motorola? LG? T-Mo? I'm looking at you. Follow HTC's Sense (pun intended). HTC lets you run stock Android if you so wish. THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

That way, if you want to run the newest OS, you don't have to wait for the manufacturer and the manufacturer will be forced to upgrade their new Custom OS App to keep up, thus ending fragmentation.

By aegisofrime on 3/31/2011 9:47:57 AM , Rating: 3
Totally agreed. Samsung TouchWiz on my friend's Galaxy S looks like some child's pet project.

BTW, do all Androids have a lack of a battery percentage meter, or is it just Samsungs?

By InfinityzeN on 3/31/2011 10:29:19 AM , Rating: 2
Hit the menu button, pick settings, then scroll down and pick battery (or is it power). Bam, battery percentage no matter what device.

Sorry I can't double check, in a building phones aren't allowed.

By dgingeri on 3/31/2011 11:20:44 AM , Rating: 2
Neither "battery" not "power" are available on the Samsung Captivate. Perhaps under another setting I haven't found yet.

By Stoanhart on 3/31/2011 11:36:10 AM , Rating: 2
Check under "About phone" - that's where it is on my Vibrant.

By TheRealArdrid on 3/31/2011 12:02:03 PM , Rating: 2
I think what he's referring to is enabling the standard battery meter that sits in the notification bar to show you the actual percentage. As far as I'm aware, that feature is not present on the Galaxy S line of phones. If you want to know your percentage at a glance, you'll need a widget/app to do so.

By omnicronx on 3/31/2011 12:38:45 PM , Rating: 2
Or flash a custom rom =D

Or root your phone and patch framework-aes.apk with a battery mod ;)

Even a novice user can figure this out with a few minutes on XDA.

I do agree it was a terrible omission though, most likely Samsung's fault..

By DanNeely on 3/31/2011 1:11:02 PM , Rating: 3
A computer geek who's new to Android perhaps; but the vast majority of smartphones are sold to mundanes. If they know any definition of root beyond part of a plant, it's almost certainly obscene. Anything update method beyond 'the phone is telling me to push a button' is going to be beyond most users.

By omnicronx on 3/31/2011 3:14:12 PM , Rating: 2
Was more or less listing the other options.

I realize that rooting your phone or having to flash a custom ROM is not for the faint of heart ;)

By dgingeri on 3/31/2011 3:19:44 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a low level nerd, not a total programmer/Linux nut type geek. I worked as Windows support for end users for 13 years, and am just now getting into server support (majority Linux). I'm certainly above "Anything update method beyond 'the phone is telling me to push a button' is going to be beyond most users. " level.

I did actually update my own phone to the standard Samsung 2.2 image a few weeks ago. I didn't use the on-phone update feature. (I mainly didn't use it because it doesn't work. It keeps telling me it can't talk to the AT&T servers.) I use the standard software for now to keep my warranty in case the hardware dies. I can't afford to buy a new one if I screw something up. Once it is out of its warranty period, I'll probably figure out how to put a custom image on it without the awful Samsung customizations. I haven't bothered to look up how to do it yet. Too much trouble for now. I have other things I need to learn for work.

By bodar on 3/31/2011 8:03:07 PM , Rating: 2
They can install one of the plethora of apps that do this:

By dgingeri on 3/31/2011 3:21:39 PM , Rating: 2
rooting the phone it too much trouble. I'd rather not for right now. It's not that I can't figure out how to do it, it's that I don't want to go through that much trouble. :)

I picked up Smart Battery Monitor for the %battery monitor. It's easy.

By phantom505 on 4/1/2011 7:37:32 AM , Rating: 2
I hope you realize the hardest thing about rooting almost all droids right now is getting the drivers for the USB port working properly....

By dagamer34 on 3/31/2011 11:30:01 PM , Rating: 2
You shouldn't have to install a ROM to get basic features of your device.

By dgingeri on 3/31/2011 3:15:29 PM , Rating: 2
That gives me immediate status of the battery and what is using the battery power (no surprises there). However, the setting for an actual % battery meter in the top bar is not available thanks to Samsung's customization. I've been using Smart Battery Monitor for that purpose.

By Solandri on 3/31/2011 2:20:52 PM , Rating: 3
Totally agreed. Samsung TouchWiz on my friend's Galaxy S looks like some child's pet project.

BTW, do all Androids have a lack of a battery percentage meter, or is it just Samsungs?

TouchWiz is easy to bypass - just install a different launcher. You don't even have to uninstall TouchWiz. If this were all that was going on, you could just upgraded to Android 2.3, keep the same TouchWiz, and all would be good. Just like most apps don't care if they're running on Android 2.1, 2.2, or 2.3.

The real problem is the manufacturers and carriers remove functionality from Android, like battery percentage, in some lame attempt to set apart their version from others, or to limit what the customer can do. This is where things start breaking when you try to apply a generic Android update, and what delays the updates - they're busy re-removing all the features they don't want you to have.

By omnicronx on 3/31/2011 3:11:52 PM , Rating: 2
Once again, you are merely turning off the launcher which means absolutely nothing from a fragmentation standpoint aside from getting to pick your UI. It does not change the update process or its roadblocks one bit.

Samsung in particular has proprietary drivers baked into their frameworks which are version dependent.

There is no such thing as stock ASOP Android for SGS devices thus far. Even for custom ROM's that have as much as possible removed, they still have the Samsung TWframework baked in.

As it stands there is little way around it, you don't even have to include the TWlauncher in your ROM and all the base Samsung TWframework has to be there.

The closest we have to ASOP is Cyanogenmod which is buggy at best. No thanks to Samsung of course for taking forever to release source code for each released version.

By InfinityzeN on 3/31/2011 10:30:36 AM , Rating: 3
I have an EVO and while I like Sense, I have disabled it at times. Being able to is as you said, how all the custom interfaces should be.

By omnicronx on 3/31/2011 10:47:40 AM , Rating: 3
Its hardly that clear cut, you are making it out as though UI customizations such as Sense and Touchwiz are merely OS skins when that is just not the case.

They all include entrenched frameworks to allow them to extend their UI's beyond basic skinning techniques. Things like Sense would not be possible without this kind of approach, they are essentially tying it into the OS.

So you can't really have it both ways, either everyone has the same UI that they can customize as they please, or you allow things to continue as they are now.

Personally I think it should be Vanilla Android for all, its the only way to help keep devices consistent and push out updates faster.

Unfortunately in order to do that, Google is going to need to give manufacturers some way to differentiate their products from one another.(perhaps designing custom UI's within a specific google framework)

Either way Google needs to put its foot down, as personally I'm starting to get sick and tired of the terrible update cycles and constant waiting.

By smithme08 on 3/31/2011 11:13:43 AM , Rating: 3
You missed his point, which was that since HTC was able to make Sense, one of the ones you mentioned as being hooked into the OS and thus hard to disable, with the ability to activate or deactivate it, then it should be possible for everyone else to do the same.

So, since Sense users CAN "have it both ways", it would seem your argument is incorrect.

I run into phone tech support issues for friends and relatives regularly where its annoying to help them since their UI doesn't have the same verbiage, buttons, option locations, etc as ones I'm more familiar with.

SO, I'd say require all customized UIs to be able to be toggled on/off, thus giving people the option to use the vanilla UI if they want.

Heck, why not make "Sense" and all the others as purchasable add-on "applications/skins" for all android devices that meet hardware/software requirements too (in addition to the company's own phones getting it by default)? Gives the manufacturer another revenue stream, or at least the option if they so choose.

By omnicronx on 3/31/2011 11:28:01 AM , Rating: 4
You clearly missed mine. Sense is not merely a launcher, just because you have disabled the launcher portion hardly means the framework is not still present (and being used).

You are NOT using ASOP Vanilla Android just because you've disabled Sense..

I.E all my points still stand.

Fragmentation will still exist, and update procedures would remain the same.

By adiposity on 3/31/2011 12:40:44 PM , Rating: 2
If you can put Sense on a phone, you can take it off. At a minimum the vendor could offer a firmware flash of stock Android. Not that this would do much for them, but Google could make it a requirement without hurting the vendor much.

By omnicronx on 3/31/2011 1:10:52 PM , Rating: 2
They are not putting "Sense of the Phone" Its actually entrenched within the Android build they are providing. Its not some kind of special installation atop ASOP Android that they install before sending phones out.

As for ROM's that not really an acceptable solution. You are essentially implying that manufacturers should have to support two distinct code bases. When you consider that the added costs of supporting two code bases could easily outweigh the added benefits of using Android in the first place, it makes even less sense.

Either they should allow them, or they should not.. I really don't see any middle ground for them. Either that or extremely limit what they can do, for example limiting them to theme and launcher modifications and nothing low level.

By adiposity on 3/31/2011 6:07:32 PM , Rating: 2
They are not putting "Sense of the Phone" Its actually entrenched within the Android build they are providing. Its not some kind of special installation atop ASOP Android that they install before sending phones out.

The semantics of it would say, that IS putting Sense on the phone. My suggestion was not that it is some app or add-on. Rather, anything that can be put on a phone, can be taken off.

Either they should allow them, or they should not.. I really don't see any middle ground for them. Either that or extremely limit what they can do, for example limiting them to theme and launcher modifications and nothing low level.

I don't see that it's impossible to make them support stock android interface. The difference between Sense and stock is not so great... They would probably prefer that to not being able to customize at all.

By dgingeri on 3/31/2011 11:32:19 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with you. It should be the plain Android interface. I don't particularly care if the manufacturers are able to differentiate their phones from others. a consistent interface is much better than creating a bunch of problems getting apps to work and updating to the new version.

I currently have a Samsung Captivate. I have been extremely annoyed with the lateness of their updates to 2.2 (it finally came around a few weeks ago) and 2.3, which we are still waiting on and probably will continue to wait for the next year at Samsung's pace.

The customizations have created problems for me, in that I can't back things up properly, and I can't restore programs from backup at all. I have 8 paid apps that I would prefer to not have to buy again if my phone dies and I get another one. It would cost me an extra ~$30.

Windows worked well, using the same interface across all machines. I don't see why the phone makers have to change everything around just to be "different". "Different" isn't necessarily a good thing.

By TheRealArdrid on 3/31/2011 12:15:58 PM , Rating: 2
To your last point, you wouldn't have to re-buy your apps. Google maintains a record of all the purchases you've made from your account. It would simply be a matter of re-downloading them to your new phone.

That said, I feel your aggravation when it comes to updates and manufacturer UI customizations. I'm also using the Captivate and I can't say I'm happy sitting around waiting for Samsung to update the phone to Gingerbread.

I've always said that Google should take a more Apple approach to this problem:

First, they should, at a minimum, mandate a base spec for all Android devices under the latest OS. They already do this to some extent with the Nexus brand but it's by no way an official mandate.

Second, they should mandate that every Android device have the ability to receive OS updates as soon as they are pushed out by Google. That would no way impede manufacturers from customizing/differentiating their phones; rather, it would simply require that their UI customizations don't extend to the OS level. It goes without saying that such a policy would do wonders for app compatibility.

Third, related to point number two, they should mandate that every Android device has the ability to run the stock Android skin. While TouchWiz, Sense, MotoBlur each have some useful features, they tend to, particularly as Google continues to evolve the OS, overlap the stock features and become redundant. Having the option to run the stock UI would be great for those of us who want to look at an excessively glossy candy based UI.

My hope is that's exactly where Google is going post Honeycomb.

By TheDoc9 on 3/31/2011 2:11:39 PM , Rating: 2
This is mainly going to hurt the open-source ROM community. The 3rd party ROMS created for android are often able to double the phones performance and remove the bloatware and carrier logging that is built into most new smart phones.

Depending on how strict they are with this, it's entirely possible that the ROM/developer community could dry up in a few years - which would be a terrible loss as these people help drive innovation.

By omnicronx on 3/31/2011 3:34:30 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree, look at what cyanogenmod has done with AOSP Android, essentially making device unspecific builds and having configuration options that apply at build time.

In fact this is the entire premise of Android, but it is the manufacturers adding all of these custom frameworks that go entirely against the Android model.

So I don't see why this would kill the community at all, if anything it makes it far easier on them. Less implementations to worry about that vary from device to device.

I would also like to see an open driver model requirement this would at least allow the community to continue development on a device even if the manufacturer decides to stop.. (HTC for example now does this and their community is much larger because of it)

By BSMonitor on 4/1/2011 9:46:59 AM , Rating: 2
Clearly Apple took the wrong approach though, ehhh?

LMAO at Android fanboys with this article. Who wants to spend countless hours customizing their phone?? I'd rather it just work.

By Kurz on 4/1/2011 10:34:42 AM , Rating: 2
Umm... why do people change their wallpaper?
Add a new Muffler to their car?
Put in a Turbo for their Car?
Why do people Overclock their computers?

Yea, I guess being able to mod and customize your properity anyway you feel like is too much trouble.

By Azethoth on 4/2/2011 1:18:58 PM , Rating: 2
I used to change the wallpaper because my mom did not like the old wallpaper or paint in each home we ever moved to.
I add a new muffler when the old one rusts away and stops muffling.
I dont put turbo in my car, I buy a fast car to begin with. But I would imagine they put turbo in to make it go?
You overclock so you can run slightly faster at the cost of lifespan.

Hey look, if you want to buy stickers and paste them to your phone go right ahead. You can even replace the case and do whatever the PC modders do but on a smaller scale.

However, hacking the underlying software is just not an important thing to do. Even if it is important to some, it would be 0.001%, 0.0001%, or less of the population. But maybe I am wrong. Feel free to actually state the important things you need to hack into your phone.

Meanwhile I will make some popcorn and watch how the iOS vs Android thing plays out.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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