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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 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:

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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