December 22, 2014

Google Opens Door on Android's Previously Closed Development

The Register reported this week that Google is taking a step in their development process to allow both OEM Manufacturers and the general public more access to the Android development process. This change is taking form in how public contributions are handled with the Native Development Kit, or NDK that Google is using for Android.

Apparently, before this policy change, public contributions to the Android source tree went into a private tree for Google to take a look at, and not into the crowd-sourced public arena.  Now with this shift in thinking, public contributions are going right to the public tree for people to use and look at, giving both devs and manufacturers a new level of access into the development process.

Of course, Google is reserving the right to continue to keep unreleased versions of Android private so that they can remain competitive in the hand-held market.  This is certainly understandable since they don’t want to tip their hand on the awesomeness they are going to include in later versions of our favorite mobile OS.

When asked why they are making this change, Google’s response was simple, they want to prevent big mistakes from OEM’s releasing half baked software.  A quote from the Register article:

Google wants to… prevent a scenario where OEMs ship unfinished source code on phones with disastrous consequences for developers and end users as their code breaks or applications downloaded from the Android Market fail to work.

According to Google, this has nearly happened before when one unnamed OEM wanted to start shipping pre-release the Android 1.5 – codenamed Cupcake – on its phones.

Whatever the reason, more openness is always good in my opinion, it allows people to take even more ownership in Android, making it that much better.

No word on when the SDK will be changed in the same way as the NDK, but it should follow suit.



  • jason

    Let me guess….sony… Must be the reason we were seeing software demos and hardware pics of the xperia so long before it was finally released…

  • Anon

    Please re-read the Register article, your inferences here are incorrect. A development kit is not the same as the platform being developed against.

    The Android NDK is for people writing native (C/C++) code for use in their Android apps, it is *not* used for Android system/framework/kernel/vm development. The Google representative at OSCON said the NDK will be moving to a similar process currently used for the SDK, not the other way around. Specifically that live development by Google would happen in the open source repo, not in their private one which is periodically sync'ed with the public one.

  • Jeroen

    People calling the development of Android closed really should look up what open means. It's about the source being available and anyone that chooses to can make modifications to it and publish it. Whether or not those changes, once submitted to the original project, will go upstream into the main project says nothing about Android being open or not.