Photo: Joi Ito. Some rights reserved.

Android head Andy Rubin took to the Android Developers Blog to clear the air about rumors that have been circulating recently: that Google is imposing new rules to reduce fragmentation, and that they are holding back release of Honeycomb source code in a way that betrays open source commitments. By referencing Gene Amdahl in the post’s title, Rubin labels both assertions as FUD: a campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt. (Amdahl coined the phrase in the mid-1970s.)

Regarding new rules to reduce fragmentation:

“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. There are not, and never have been, any efforts to standardize the platform on any single chipset architecture.”

Regarding holding back Honeycomb source code:

“We continue to be an open source platform and will continue releasing source code when it is ready. 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.”

The whole post is worth reading for Android enthusiasts and anyone interested in smartphones.

While it’s a strong rebuttal, it’s worth noting that some of what Rubin says in this post can coexist with parts of rumors that are out there. For example, that “anti-fragmentation” rules have been around since the beginning does not refute rumors that existing rules are now being more strongly enforced. Similarly, clarifying that the “temporary delay” in publishing Honeycomb code is not a change in strategy does not refute rumors that the tablet-optimized OS was rushed to market in a not-quite-finished state.

Let us know what you think: do Andy Rubin’s assurances satisfy you, or do you still have concerns about how Google is handling Android?

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  1. I think it’s good. I was explaining it this way to someone I work with, how Google only really restricts access to their own Android apps like the Market and Maps. Anyone is free to modify Android as much as they want, push nothing back to the AOSP, and release a handset. It won’t have Google Maps or the Market on it, but they can do it. If you want Google apps and the Market, you have to agree to not go crazy with modifying the underlying OS.

    I think Google’s “tightening the reigns” is more out of necessity than out of some evil desire. They don’t want to have an Android ecosystem spanning 10 major releases, and they’re probably tired of spending their own money improving Android, when none of the manufacturers & carriers will roll out the updates to their devices.

    Android is no less free or open than it was a year ago, Google is just taking their part in the process seriously. They won’t allow their apps (including the Market) on non-framework-compliant devices, and they’re not pushing back half-baked (aka tablet-centric) code into the AOSP. These seem like good things to me.

    • So… what you’re saying is Google is just now enforcing anti-fragmentation clauses in Android. I’m new to android, and I still use my iOS devices heavily, I can say that it sucks buying a brand new android device based on the previous update, in addition to not knowing if my device will ever get an update. iOS may be a walled garden but I’m guaranteed to have the latest when I purchase a brand new device.


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