Google’s Vice President of Engineering and head of Android has hit back at recent press speculation that his Android mobile phone operating system is becoming less open.
Writing on the Android Developers blog, Rubin says “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”.
He says that since the launch of the first Android device, in 2008, Google has been “committed to fostering the development of an open platform for the mobile industry and beyond”. Implicitly, that is in contrast to the approach of rivals such as Apple.
Recent criticism, however, has suggested that, in a bid to improve users’ experience of Android, Rubin has adopted stricter controls on who is allowed early access to the source code.
He says now that “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”
While this does not completely clarify suggestions that Google will stop making such frequent upgrades to its operating system, or accusations that it has introduced a much stricter regime around approving devices for Android use, it is a clear attempt by Google to tell developers that it believes the OS has thrived because of its openness.
Rubin has said before, however, that Google likes to work with a hardware manufacturer for each version of the Android operating system. The partner for the forthcoming version, codenamed “Ice Cream Sandwich”, has not been confirmed.
Rubin also says that “There are not, and never have been, any efforts to standardize the platform on any single chipset architecture.”
Rubin says, too, that tablet OS Honeycomb has not yet been open-sourced while developers ready it for phones, but adds that “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”.