More Reports Emerge That Google's Android Strategy Isn't Totally Open

by Sam Dean - Apr. 01, 2011Comments (2)

A few days ago, we considered the open and non-open paths that Google is following with its Android OS, focusing especially on BusinessWeek's report on how Google is, with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), targeting features at tablet developers, while other versions of Android would be more appropriate for smartphones and other devices.This is all part of the forked future for Android that many people have seen coming. Now, a new BusinessWeek report implies that Google is putting pressure on developers regarding other Google-driven tools, including Google Maps and Google search.

According to the new 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."

 As The Register notes:

"Bloomberg says that Google's clampdown affects big-name partners such as LG, Toshiba, Samsung, and – wait for it – Facebook...Google is demanding that Android licensees adhere to 'non-fragmentation clauses' that give Google the right of refusal on changes to the Android interface, the use of services atop the platform, and, in some cases, who manufacturers and carriers can partner with."

Of course, the Bloomberg sources for these reports are cited only as people "familiar with the matter" but there is no doubt that Android is headed for a forked future, and it's becoming clear that Google will play a role in how development surrounding and adoption of Android get done. The question remains: Is this unfair play on Google's part?

Android is an open source OS. Certainly, if certain commercial partners have access to the latest and greatest versions, that puts the development community at large at a disadvantage, but let's not forget that despite its many contributions to open source, Google is a commercial entity. 

How many open source platforms and applications are free in one version but are also available in cost-driven premium editions? There are many of those, and Google's strategy with Android is somewhat similar to this time-tested model. Google can play favorites with versions of Android, and with its proprietary applications, well...because it can. No amount of caterwauling over this will change that fact.

What we can hope for is that as the most innovative development takes place around the latest version of Android and related tools, Google releases the platforms and applications to everyone on a reasonably timely basis. There is nothing unfair about that, but Google will face much criticism if it doesn't release these platforms and tools to everyone on a truly timely basis going forward. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out.



Mark Hinkle uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


In a way, Google "punked" the open source community.

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There are more reasons why Google is delaying Honeycomb's source code release

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