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Google Android boss Andy Rubin has responded to recent reports questioning Android’s “openness,” including claims that Google is demanding increasingly “onerous” terms from its partners and that it is requiring companies like Facebook, who want to modify Android, to get their code approved by Google.In a blog post, Rubin says that Google has actually had an “anti-fragmentation” program in place since Android 1.0, and that partners who want their devices to run Google apps like Gmail, Android Market, etc. — basically everyone — have always had to agree to them.
This actually seems a little hard to believe, given how Rubin has allowed Android to become so fragmented anyway. So whether Google is really making its terms more “onerous” or not, it probably should seize more control — Android could really benefit from more standardization.
But we don’t blame Rubin for being defensive — his reputation has taken a hit recently, as he’s preached Android’s “openness” forever, and that looks more hypocritical every time we hear about Google cracking down on its partners.
And Rubin does a good job being as vague as possible, and not addressing specific claims, like Bloomberg’s report that Google is trying to “hold up” some of Verizon’s Android devices that use Bing as their built-in search engine, or that Facebook has to get its code inspected and approved by Google.
Meanwhile, he also announces that Android 3.0 Honeycomb — the version of Android designed for tablets — is being ported to work on phones, and Google will eventually release the source code.
Here’s Rubin’s blog post:
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 customise 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 customising 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.