Google VP: Android will remain ‘an open platform’

7 Apr 2011

Google’s vice-president of engineering Andy Rubin has hit back at claims the company is becoming more restrictive with the Android platform.

Previous reports stated Google would not be releasing the source code to Android 3.0 in the near future.

According to a statement forwarded to Engadget, Google said that while Honeycomb’s new features worked well on Android tablets, they still had “more work to do” before they can be offered on other devices, such as smartphones.

This sparked speculation that Google was becoming more restrictive with Android. By not releasing Android 3.0 openly, many wondered if this was Google’s way of dictating where certain versions of Android could appear. Google had once said that Android 2.2 was not a tablet OS, but it didn’t stop manufacturers for creating tablets for it.

More restrictions?

The discussion expanded further after a report from Bloomberg Businessweek was released, where numerous executives from companies such as LG, Toshiba, Samsung and Facebook said Google now needed to approve of potential Android devices before handing over the latest version of their software – a policy at odds with the mobile OS’ open source sensibilities.

Some sources said Google tried to hold up the release of Verizon Android devices utilising Microsoft’s search engine Bing and unnamed employees at Facebook said Google had to approve of the social network’s tweaks to its own variant of Android for smartphones.

The report suggested Google played favourites, giving certain manufacturers early access to the latest Android capabilities and that others outside of this “club,” such as Dell and Acer, have to follow with these upgrades several months after their launch.

“Android is still open”

However, Rubin has claimed this is “misinformation” and has said Google remains committed to “fostering the development of an open platform for the mobile industry and beyond.”

“As always, device makers are free to modify Android to customise any range of features for Android devices,” said Rubin in a blog post.

While he did not address some of the specific claims of the Businessweek report, he pointed out that while there are compatibility requirements for devices in place, this has been the case since Android 1.0 to combat fragmentation issues.

“Our approach remains unchanged: there are no lock-downs or restrictions against customising UIs. There are not, and never have been, any efforts to standardise the platform on any single chipset architecture” said Rubin.

Rubin emphasised that they are still working on bringing new Honeycomb features to phones and that the delay was not indicative of a change in strategy.