Last week saw a string of reports emerge about Google’s new, locked-down approach to Android. The Big G was said to be stopping customisations without its permission, enraging partners in its open source operating system.
This followed news that it wasn’t planning to release Honeycomb to the general public and smaller mobile makers, as it has done with other iterations. Essentially, it doesn’t want the tablet-focused version of the OS winding up on smartphones. And now Android boss Andy Rubin has now said as much in an interview with Business Week.
Admitting that the company has taken shortcuts with Honeycomb in order to get it out on the Motorola Xoom in time, Rubin said: "We didn't want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable. So we took a shortcut."
Rubin did add that Android remained an open source project, even while making it clear that only the biggest mobile players would get to see Honeycomb’s code for now. But essentially, he’s saying that Google has had enough with mobile makers playing fast and loose with its OS.
While Android has stormed ahead, Google has been powerless to stop a raft of second-rate kit using the operating system get to market. That means it has a wide spread across different markets, but undoubtedly dilutes the brand.
It now seems abundantly clear that Honeycomb won’t ever make it to a mobile. And while some tech watchers will claim Google is coming over all Apple, this is just the latest move in its offensive to take ownership of Android. The company is quite evidently tired of how its OS has been fragmented and not used in ways in which it has envisioned.
You could argue that Google has been a victim of its own open source strategy. Rubin may have tweeted the open source code to Android in a bizarre riposte at Steve Jobs’s jibes about the OS, but it seems Google can no longer leave Android unchecked.
The Big G’s PR machine will maintain that nothing has changed, especially as what it’s doing runs anathema to Android’s founding strategy. But it’s also clear that the move to keep Honeycomb under lock and key is imperative.
Fragmentation will never be completely mastered. But by making these proactive steps, Google is finally saying that it doesn’t want its well-designed software tweaked and used in ways which besmirch its good name. Here’s hoping it tries playing the same game with the forthcoming Ice Cream version, due to be trailed at Google I/O in May.