Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Google’s Andy Rubin Defends Android’s Openness, Claims Rivals Just Spreading FUD

Amid criticisms that Google is grabbing tighter control over Android’s reins, the head of the mobile software effort said Wednesday that he and the company remain committed to keeping the effort an open source project.

The comments come in the wake of Google’s move to delay the release of Honeycomb into the open source until a version of the software that works on phones is ready. Honeycomb was introduced in February and is shipping on Motorola’s Xoom, but Google has said the company took shortcuts to get the tablet-optimized operating system to market.

“As I write this the Android team is still hard at work to bring all the new Honeycomb features to phones,” Rubin said in a blog post. “As soon as this work is completed, we’ll publish the code. This temporary delay does not represent a change in strategy.”

Rubin also contradicted rumors that the company was putting in place new restrictions or had plans to limit the types of chips on which Android devices can run.

The Android chief did acknowledge that limitations are placed on partners that want to ship devices with Google applications or access to the Android Market in order to ensure compatibility. Those restrictions, he said, have been in place since Android began, however.

Rubin’s blog post was titled “I think I’m having a Gene Amdahl moment,” a reference to the “fear, uncertainty and doubt” that Amdahl said his rivals were spreading about him when he left IBM to found his own computer company.

Here’s the full text of Rubin’s 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 customize 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 customizing 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.

(Photo courtesy Flickr user asirap)