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Android as open as ever, claims Rubin

Apr 7, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Google's Android creator Andy Rubin said the open source platform will remain open despite suggestions to the contrary. Rubin disputes recent allegations that Google's non-fragmentation policy has been tightened, and denies any “lock-downs or restrictions against customizing UIs.”

Google's Android chief Andy Rubin lashed out at media April 6 for suggesting that Google is increasingly putting the clamps on its open source mobile operating system. He promised the platform will continue to be open for modification.

Responding to a March 30 article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek that claimed Google is instilling tighter controls on Android and offering backroom deals for preferred partners, Rubin in a blog post entitled "I think I'm having a Gene Amdahl moment" described the allegations as "misinformation in the press about Android and Google's role in supporting the ecosystem."The blog's headline refers to the Amdahl CEO who coined the term FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) in 1975 when referring to IBM's business practices.

The misinformation Rubin is alluding to is Businessweek's claim that Rubin himself has been demanding Android licensees agree to "non-fragmentation clauses" that give Google the final say on how they can tweak the Android code and even with whom they may partner. The article's point is that Rubin (pictured) is trying to curb fragmentation of an already fragmented platform.

Rubin was cited by the article as saying that such clauses have always been part of the Android license. Yet, the article goes on to argue that Google has tightened up its policies for partners such as Facebook and Verizon, and has offered some sweetheart deals to others.

The BusinessWeek article's credibility was bolstered because it came one week after the same publication correctly reported that Google was delaying the open source release of its Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" code for tablets because it wasn't finished adapting the software to work on smartphones and other gadgets. That earlier article was said to have been based on an interview with Rubin, whom it quotes, and was not disputed by Google.

In his blog post, Rubin said device makers are free to modify Android to customize any range of features for Android devices, but noted that for those who wish to market a device as Android-compatible or include Google apps on the device, the company requires that device conform with "basic compatibility requirements."

Moreover, he said Google's "anti-fragmentation" program has been in place since Android's inception and remains a priority to provide a great user experience for consumers and a consistent platform for developers.

"Our approach remains unchanged: there are no lock-downs or restrictions against customizing UIs," Rubin wrote. "There are not, and never have been, any efforts to standardize the platform on any single chipset architecture."

Fragmentation is indeed still an issue. Google's own device dashboard shows seven OS builds, with six for smartphones, and one for tablets. Baird found that 56 percent of Android developers are concerned about increasing fragmentation in the platform.

Rubin: Honeycomb features coming to phones

Rubin also acknowledged that his team is still working to bring all of the new Honeycomb features to phones and promised to publish the code when it is finished. "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," he wrote.

Rubin vowed that Google will continue to work toward an open and healthy ecosystem "because we truly believe this is best for the industry and best for consumers."

What Rubin didn't directly address is the allegation that Google releases code to preferred hardware makers and carriers for early access, giving those partners advantages in time to market. TechCrunch suggested such sweetheart deals are indeed going on, though it does not provide evidence for the point.

Clint Boulton is a writer for eWEEK.

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