MIPS Releases Statement on Google’s UI Crackdown

We reported earlier today that Google is taking steps to slow down fragmentation within Android releases by being more strict with manufacturer UIs. Well, we’ve just received an official statement from MIPS Technologies that clears up some questions about this whole ordeal. In a nutshell, Google sees what UIs are doing to Android. True, they’re all unique in their own way, and they set the devices apart, but the bottom line is that they’re slowing down Android releases. Take for example, the Samsung Galaxy S devices, which are just now getting Froyo, due to the fact that Samsung had to overlay TouchWiz on top of Froyo and work out all the kinks. If it weren’t for TW, the Galaxy S phones would have had Froyo months ago.

Google sees this problem, and they’re doing something about it. According to MIPS, Google is requiring that manufacturers sign an “anti-fragmentation” agreement in order to gain access to the Android Market and other Android resources. Does this mean that Manufacturer UIs will cease to exist? No. It’s a step toward slowing down fragmentation of Android devices. It’s a step, made by Google (with MIPS’s assistance) to ensure that the manufacturers won’t mess around when it comes to updates. The agreement ensures that you’ll get software updates sooner, and when they’re promised. I for one have to applaud Google on this one. They’ve taken a passive stance for the majority of things related to Android so far, but they see what’s happening, and they’re not just going to stand by and let it happen. Kudos, Google. More on this as it develops.

  • what is the impact of this agreement on wireless carriers? are they required to comply as well?
    we’ve seen in the past at&t amongst other carriers holding up updates. I’m hoping we’ll see this change.

    • M022833

      I have to applaud this decision big time. It is a huge step in the right direction for android. While the manufacturers are primarily to blame for the situation the carriers add to the problem by adding their own non removable bloatware and disabling features that they see are not to be in their own interests. Really the sooner we get to a stock OS the better for everyone.

      • Sss

        Yeah….just like iOS. Nice “open” system ya’ got there android.

  • what is the impact of this agreement on wireless carriers? are they required to comply as well?
    we’ve seen in the past at&t amongst other carriers holding up updates. I’m hoping we’ll see this change.

  • I have deliberately bought “Nexus” phones and have a pre-order in for the Xoom simply because they are running “pure” Android. I like the HTC Sense UI and most others have something going for them but as you say, they mean that updates are delayed whilst the manufacturer updated their UI’s. When a phone or tablet is no longer a priority to a company, they naturally drag their feet on the “old” devices. I’m sure my old “Hero” would have had more timely updates if it hadn’t been for the HTC UI. I can understand manufacturers wanting to differentiate themselves from their rivals but it has proved counter productive for end users. I am sure that there is a way that manufactuers could add apps and widgets that runs on the OS but only on devices they have manufactured by detecting a serial or IMEI number rather than mess with OS itself. I still like the idea of Open Source and people being able to root their phones and install tweaked versions of the Android but I believe that Google are moving down the right path in ensuring that a standard untweaked OS forms the basic OS for Android devices. What a user chooses to do afterwards is up to them.

    If I buy a PC with Windows on it, it is a standard – If I choose to install Linux on it, that’s up to me – if I then mess up that’s my fault and it should not reflect on the manufacturer of the PC or Microsoft. Without messing with the core OS, I can “mess” by adding device drivers, DLLs etc.

    Knowing I can restore the OS again to put everything right is ideal. The same should be the case for Android devices and standard “reference” software for all devices would certainly help get updates out faster whilst introducing fewer strange bugs.

  • Give me a break. NONE of the issues with Froyo on the Epic have anything to do with Touchwiz, even all the way back to the betas from NOVEMBER. Touchwiz has always been stable.

    • You are completely wrong. Touchwiz exists in more than the “UI” form. It is infact through tons of framework changes, additions, etc. It is a known fact that adding a UI customization adds fragmentation and slows down the release cycle. There were MAJOR changes from 2.1 to 2.2 and as such the entire of TW needed to be adapted for it. Factor in changes for 4G (Yes, that’s framework too amongst other bits (drivers, daemons, etc)) and you have a very menacing beast. The fact is that Samsung employed very sloppy practices on a LOT of things to quickly get things working and that is why they are having so many problems releasing updates. And yes, atleast 75% of that is related to Touchwiz and its framework implementations.

    • There’s nothing wrong with TouchWiz or Sense (I got personal issues with Blur). The problem is they are deeply integrated into the Android framework. So whenever a new version of Android comes out the UI developers Samsung, HTC, and Motorola have to go in and reintegrate these layers back into the virgin framework code. It is this reintegration process which holds up the major Android updates from Google. Contrary to popular believe these custom UIs that manufacturers employ are not just layers sitting on top of the Android code base. They are often very deeply intertwined and integrated. Each time the manufacturers do this they are effectively creating their own Android fork and thus the source of fragmentation. What Google is doing now is saying “look, you can add your skins and custom apps but you have to do it the way we say is ok and doesn’t change any of the Android framework directly”. I would take it one step further and if the device gets rooted the end user can delete or remove any of the custom components and skins. Or just have an option to completely shut off the custom skins leaving a clean vanilla android experience. This makes the device OPEN to end users which is the promise most of us invested in Android for to begin with.

      • You would think(hope?) that the manufacturers would have figured out not to ingrain their changes so deeply into Android, considering how new versions come out every 6 months. Sigh…

      • Anonymous

        Almost everything you’re asserting simply isn’t true. Countless ROMs have demonstrated how trivial it is to add or remove TouchWiz or the other custom UIs.

        The carriers are entirely at fault for the delays.

        • And you think Mr. Average Customer is ready to mess with ROMs and other stuff to remove the Android modifications? What planet are you from?

  • malissagx thansan

    I was at a party and it got busted, when the cops showed up, and everyone was getting mips and blowing the breathalyzers.

  • interesting article you have shared thank you

  • Jens

    But… Froyo has been available to Samsung Galaxy S 9000 owners in some countries in Europe October 2010. With Touchwiz. Isn’t the carriers in the US to blame instead of Samsung?

  • Jlrod89

    yes…they should have done this ages ago. Who really want silly looking motorola blur and touchwiz?