Last week’s rumors about Google’s crackdown on Android fragmentation inspired a range of reactions from Android’s proponents and foes — some praised it as a necessary step towards the maturation of the platform, some accused Google of hypocritically reneging on its pledge of openness, and some did both — but the rumors apparently did not sit pretty with Andy Rubin, the man who founded Android, Inc. and has led Android’s development within Google since the company was acquired. In a post on Google’s official Android Developers blog, Rubin addressed Android’s future head-on. The full text of his post is below, but in short: He does not think that Google has hypocritically reneged on its pledge of openness.
Recently, there’s been a lot of misinformation in the press about Android and Google’s role in supporting the ecosystem. I’m writing in the spirit of transparency and in an attempt to set the record straight. The Android community has grown tremendously since the launch of the first Android device in October 2008, but throughout we’ve remained committed to fostering the development of an open platform for the mobile industry and beyond.
We don’t believe in a “one size fits all” solution. The Android platform has already spurred the development of hundreds of different types of devices – many of which were not originally contemplated when the platform was first created. What amazes me is that the even though the quantity and breadth of Android products being built has grown tremendously, it’s clear that quality and consistency continue to be top priorities. Miraculously, we are seeing the platform take on new use cases, features and form factors as it’s being introduced in new categories and regions while still remaining consistent and compatible for third party applications.
As always, device makers are free to modify Android to customize any range of features for Android devices. This enables device makers to support the unique and differentiating functionality of their products. If someone wishes to market a device as Android-compatible or include Google applications on the device, we do require the device to conform with some basic compatibility requirements. (After all, it would not be realistic to expect Google applications – or any applications for that matter – to operate flawlessly across incompatible devices). Our “anti-fragmentation” program has been in place since Android 1.0 and remains a priority for us to provide a great user experience for consumers and a consistent platform for developers. In fact, all of the founding members of the Open Handset Alliance agreed not to fragment Android when we first announced it in 2007. 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.
Finally, we continue to be an open source platform and will continue releasing source code when it is ready. 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. This temporary delay does not represent a change in strategy. We remain firmly committed to providing Android as an open source platform across many device types.
The volume and variety of Android devices in the market continues to exceed even our most optimistic expectations. We will continue to work toward an open and healthy ecosystem because we truly believe this is best for the industry and best for consumers.
A spirited defense, but TechCrunch calls it something of a bait-and-switch. “The key words [in the BusinessWeek article that sparked this whole foofaraw] are ‘early access.’ Yes, as Rubin says, manufacturers can still access the Android code once it’s released and the same old rules apply, but there’s no doubt that Google is giving preferential treatment to certain carriers and hardware manufacturers in return for their cooperation.”
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