Andy Rubin, the head of Android at Google, has responded to all the talk going on across the web over Android’s openness. I would almost say he sounds a bit irritated, but that’s probably my own imagination. In any case, his opinion is clear – “I think I’m having a Gene Amdahl moment”, referring to the man who coined the term ‘fear, uncertainty, and doubt’.
He labels all the information in the press as ‘misinformation’, and addresses most of the talk in the press directly. His main theme seems to be that despite all the talk, nothing has actually changed between then and now. Everybody is free to modify Android, but if you want to market it as ‘Android-compatible’ or include Google’s applications, you’ll need to conform with some basic compatibility requirements. This program has been in place since Android 1.0, Rubin notes, and all members of the Open Handset Alliance have agreed to abide by them.
Despite the drive to not fragment Android, Rubin notes that everyone is still free to modify Android. He also dispels the rumours that Google is working on standardising Android on a single chipset. “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,” Rubin notes.
“Finally, we continue to be an open source platform and will continue releasing source code when it is ready,” he adds, referring to the Honeycomb source code (or lack thereof), “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.”
There is one final point he didn’t address. The BusinessWeek article that started all this stated that in order to get pre-release access to the Android source code, you’ll need to play by Google’s rules. “From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google’s most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans,” BusinessWeek claimed, “And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google’s Android group.”
Rubin doesn’t directly address this, but to me it seems this simply isn’t new policy. I simply can’t believe that before all this, companies like HTC and Motorola got pre-release access to the code without any conditions being set by Google. It certainly could be that Google will be applying the rules more strictly from now on, but considering the rules have always been clear and open, and considering the parties involved have been well aware of these rules for a long time, it hardly seems that this is in any way unfair or closed or whatever.
I’m still not happy with Google not releasing Honeycomb’s code, but the rest of the story all seems very reasonable to me, and a good thing for consumers – which, lest we forget, is what matters most.