The Android mobile platform is a runaway smash hit with users around the world. Research firm Gartner has released a report predicting that nearly half the world’s smartphones will run Android by the end of 2012.
But a backlash has been developing in recent months from developers over Google’s perceived reluctance to release its latest Android code, encapsulated in an article in Business Week that described “a scenario where Google could have total control over what sort of tweaking can be done to Android’s user interface and that soon Google would begin dictating which chipsets are best optimised for their operating system and should be used”.
The issue was addressed by Google vice president of engineering Andy Rubin in an “attempt to set the record straight”.
Writing on the Android Developer’s Blog, Rubin began by saying that “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”.
Rubin went on to say that “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.” But he explains that developing for Android is not without some restrictions, as “we do require the device to conform with some basic compatibility requirements”.
PCWorld elaborates on the issue, saying “given the fully closed nature of Apple’s competing iOS platform, Android’s relative openness has always been one of its greatest assets and distinguishing features. The platform has never been as open as Linux is, to be sure, but it has enabled far more customisation, innovation and consumer choice than a completely proprietary strategy ever could.”
It’s an important issue because technology tends to standardise around the dominant platform, which looks to be Android for the foreseeable future. Business Insider explains how “developers building products designed to work with the platform devote more and more of their energy to the platform. The reward for building and working with other platforms, meanwhile, drops, and gradually developers stop developing for them.”
Rubin finished his blog post in a reassuring manner, saying that “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.”
So the takeaway from all of this is that you shouldn’t believe every little rumour you hear about Google, and consumers should rest assured in the belief that all the incredible things currently in development for the Honeycomb-version of Android will most likely be coming to your mobile device in the not-too-distant future.