March 31, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Bloomberg reported today that Google is cracking the whip on Android phones, forcing companies to abide by anti-Android fragmentation clauses and not modify the Android experience too much. The Internet then blew up with “OMG! Is Android open source ending?” responses because it seemed Google was going to begin locking down Android.
The only problem is that everyone failed to recognize a line brought up in the BusinessWeek article that sparked the latest Android hubbub: Google has always locked down Android releases in its early stages. Qualcomm and HTC had to play by Google’s rules for the Nexus One, and NVIDIA and Motorola followed the leader to be first to market with the Motorola Xoom. Companies that want early access to the latest version of Android have to sacrifice their desire to heavily-tweak the software in order to beat other companies to the punch. While this may anger smaller companies, that doesn’t mean Google has fundamentally altered its plans for Android.
It seems Android phone and tablet makers are more upset that Google’s practices don’t give them enough time to alter Android as much as they would like. Discussions about the openness and promptness of Google Android code releases have popped up several times, so nothing has really changed based on this article. The dozen or so executives use as sources for the article may seem upset that Google is tightening its policies, but Google is not standing in the way of customizations, which a rep confirmed to us last week.
There are times I wish Google would be heavy-handed with Android because it would help alleviate the frustrations that come from the differences in processors, skins, and hardware issues that make it so difficult for apps to function in a uniform fashion. But I doubt that would happen since it would provide less options in terms of form factor and phone quality. That’s what made Android rise to popularity and diverting from that strategy could be a step backwards. Was Google’s end game to get everyone in the building and then change the rules once the door was locked? Possible but doubtful. Things in “Android Land” are the same as there were last year, just with a bigger crowd to control.