These time-limited partnerships are hugely beneficial to manufacturers, as they get to have the newest Android version running on their hardware before anyone else. That means more press coverage and, if the device is decent, a nice head start on sales while all the other manufacturers scramble to get the new software working on their own devices.
Businessweek contends that in an effort to prevent fragmentation, “Google has recently tightened its policies” and that “from now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google’s most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans. And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google’s Android group.” In other words, if you want the latest version of Android on your device, you now have to go through Google first. That’s not exactly “open” as Android claims to be.
Rubin has responded, defending the open nature of Android and saying that Google has had an “anti-fragmentation” program at work since Android was announced back in 2007. He doesn’t outright deny Businessweek’s claim that he will need to approve the plans of device manufacturers that want early access to new Android software, but instead says the following:
“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.”
Rubin likens the “misinformation in the press” to the concept of “FUD” (fear, uncertainty and doubt) coined by former IBM employee Gene Amdahl back in 1975, who claimed that IBM sales people used “FUD” to scare potential customers away from using software made by Amdahl’s own company.
Google has also recently faced criticism from the Android developer community for not yet releasing the underlying source code for the new tablet software, Android 3.0 Honeycomb.
Google has historically released source code for new Android versions on or before the day it’s publicly available to consumers, but the Motorola Xoom tablet that’s been on the market for a while now shipped without Google having released the Honeycomb source code. Rubin and Google contend that once the Honeycomb software has been made compatible on smartphones—not just tablets—they’ll release its source code.
“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,” says Rubin in his blog post.
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