Openness is part of what makes Android such a great mobile operating system and is one of the reasons it is appealing to developers and manufacturers alike. However, one of the biggest complaints about Android is the fragmentation of the platform, which is a direct result of this openness.
Many people have been urging Google to take a stand and do something about fragmentation, and Google has finally responded. Information released today shows that the company has been having some stern talks with manufacturers.
The main result of the talks is this: manufacturers who want access to the latest version of Android will have to tell Google if and how they intend to modify the Android OS. If Google approves of their plans, then they get the code. If not, then no code for them.
At first, this looks like a good thing. After all, Google is listening to the users and dealing with complaints.
However, there are a few potential problems I have with this. I am worried that some manufacturers, when not approved by Google for the use the latest version, will simply use the latest open source version (currently Android 2.3). Without Google approval, it would lack the Android Market, but manufacturers may feel that they can get by with Amazon's Appstore alternative.
More concerning to me is the potential this has to undermine Android's open source roots. In order to keep manufacturers from getting the latest source code, Google would have to do just that, keep people from the source code. Earlier this week, Google announced that they would not release the code for Honeycomb, the latest Android release, for a few more months. The announcement caused quite a disturbance in the open source community, but in hindsight it fits perfectly with Google's new code witholding philosophy.
I can see where this decision makes sense from a business standpoint, and it may even be good for consumers. Yet I am still a little worried that Google may be abandoning the open source movement and developers that make Android great.[BusinessWeek]