Google finally does something about Android fragmentation, but have they forgotten about "openness"?

Angry_android 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.

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Aaron Orquia

Aaron Orquia is an associate editor at Pocketables. He has been using Android and Linux since he bought his first computer years ago, and his interest in technology, software, and tweaking both to work just right has only grown stronger since then. His current gadgets include a OnePlus One, a Pebble smartwatch, and an Acer C720 Chromebook.

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4 thoughts on “Google finally does something about Android fragmentation, but have they forgotten about "openness"?

  • The object of making Android open source is for everyone to actually contribute work back to the main branch to improve the OS for all. I’m not sure that is what has actually been happening. If that’s the case, then this is a good move from Google.

    If manufactures and carriers are just taking all of the work done by Google and only adding things that are specific to their devices or network without improving Android as a whole in any meaningful way, well, that’s just not in the spirit of the whole thing.

  • Avatar of Pizza Man

    Your comment misses the mark for me. Android and Meego offer the same value proposition to Google and Intel, respectively. The point of supporting these software projects for each company is to shorten the time-to-market for their strategic hardware partners. The value proposition of the “openess” of these projects is that, rather than Google and Intel being responsible for ensuring that every device under the sun is fully compatible, the hardware OEMs and ODMs can add in the little bit of extra work to ensure that their devices are fully supported. The big difference between Android and MeeGo is that Google wants to make it as easy as possible for hardware vendors to get consumers using Google’s services, because Google makes money harvesting and leveraging all of your personal information, whereas Intel wants to make it as easy as possible for hardware vendors to sell devices to consumers which feature Intel hardware on-board. If your professional life is in the business world, then you appreciate that a central component of the business models of companies like Intel and Microsoft is making money by helping other businesses make money, whereas companies like Apple and Google make money by limiting and violating people’s rights and privacy. It’s really easy to get behind companies like Intel and Microsoft because they want to collaborate with others. They are truly open. They make money when everybody around them makes money. So what does this have to do with Google and openess? Well, Android isn’t really open source, and if your professional life is in the business world then you know that Google is using the pretty standard anti-competitive tactic of making something “free” and then changing the rules of the game once it gets the leverage. This is how big companies come into communities, drive out the local businesses by under-cutting prices, and then jacking up the prices once all of the competition has been run out of town.. This is why only fools fall for the Android operating system, and only fools support Google’s anti-consumer activities by paying good money for bad software. You are right that the point of open source software is that whenever somebody improves the software everybody gets to enjoy the benefit for free. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s only a beautiful thing if that freedom is truly free. With Android, that freedom is managed, and every improvement in the software is really just a gift given to Google because it’s their project and not one of a shared community. In terms of the underlying philosophy, Android is completely antithetical to open source software. Contributors are literally working as volunteers to line the pockets of Google share holders. Stupid little fools. It’s easy to tell if somebody doesn’t actually care about open source software: they participate in validating an ecosystem like Android or iOS.

  • This is because of companies like Motorola and HTC adding their own layers on top of Android and then not sharing those modifications with the rest of the Android community. The reason for open source was to share the developement with the entire community and not to retain rights over certain portions of it. This is the biggest complaint because of the extra delays it takes to get the latest updates on phones that use these layers. Google may have allowed these layers before because the base Android wasn’t as attractive as it is now. This is a good move by Google to move forward.

  • If you believe that Microsoft and Intel are open and Google is closed, then there is no help for you.

    There are MANY large open source projects that support both completely open and closed branches. Google has AOSP for Android which anyone can grab. They have a delayed release cycle for their newest versions which helps ensure that device manufactures don’t do things that end up a complete mess. When that happens, it hurts the project as a whole.

    Honeycomb was held back specifically to keep device builders from trying to shoehorn it into a phone. When they’ve had time to clean up some items that will make it behave properly on different resolutions and finish up some bug squashing, I’m sure it’ll be released for all to enjoy tinkering with.


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