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Android's head honcho, Any Rubin.  (Source: gizmodo.com)
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 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
quote:
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.

quote:
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.


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