Ronnie05's Blog

Android: Debating Control of its Platform versus Apostles of Open Source

Posted in Mobile Computing, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on June 21, 2010

Android resolves to limit fragmentation of its platform through the Gingerbread release. This looks like to be an anti-thesis to the whole concept of open source development

The Android Gingerbread Logo

Google’s Nexus One wasn’t the biggest of its success stories. Quite on contrary, the Nexus One risked a lot of OEM wrath and Google ran into conflicts of Interest with Android Supporters. It would appear that Google has not learnt well from its negative experience an year back. Google now risks the wrath of OEM businesses yet again with its latest attempt to take greater control of the Android platform.

Google has been battling with fragmentation in the Android platform with in various OEMs, who have leveraged the “open” source Android to create differentiation for themselves while sticking to the core platform. The best cases in point are Motorola’s MotoBlur and HTC’s Sense. The fragmentation of the platform is a big stumbling block against a uniformity of user experience and extension of developer APIs seamlessly across all range of devices.

Google is reported to be planning a unified user interface in its forthcoming Android release codenamed Gingerbread. This will be imposed across Android products, ending the fragmentation that dogs the system. However, this also restricts partners’ development of their own user experiences.Google wants to deter its OEM partners from taking this “unification” approach by making the default experience superior in terms of handset performance. Google believes that the proprietary overlays (made by the OEMs) are variable in quality and often slow down the device. It cannot, in the open source world, ban these UIs as Apple can, but it aims to make them “as pointless as possible” by enhancing the vanilla look and feel and ensuring it drives the fastest and most efficient performance for the handset.

Some developers fear they will need to choose between being ‘Motoblur programmers’ or ‘Sense programmers’, rather than having their Android apps run entirely unchanged on all the versions. This would create a world more like traditional Symbian – with very different user interface layers such as Nokia Series 60, DoCoMo MOAP, and the now defunct Sony Ericsson/Motorola technology UIQ, all with their own programmer bases.

This is principally, closer to the fully unified Apple approach, which faces none of the dilemmas of the open source world, between unity and freedom of choice The iPhone maker has defended its iron control of its famous user interface on several occasions against companies that sought to impose their own overlays, notably China Mobile. Google, always looking to increase its personal power over the mobile experience, is eyeing a similar control- though it may be swimming against the tide, at a time when even Microsoft, also accustomed to dictate terms for Windows, has been forced to accept third party overlays like Sense for Windows Mobile.All this is precipitated by Google’s intent to offer a consistent look, feel and experience on its UI across all its devices which will significantly compete with Apple.

Bottomline:The intent may be half correct from a market and competition perspective but is an anti-thesis of the Open source platform idea that created the Android by letting Google co-opt and co-create with OEMs and Developers.Apple levels of UI performance are almost impossible for a platform that is geared to a wide variety of devices and vendors, and Google may, once again, be overestimating its own power, and the need for its key partners to differentiate themselves.

Google needs to identify the strengths within the “open source” construct and use that to deliver higher and bigger on the platform rather than affecting changes to the philosophy which will make its open source a pseudo effort.

3 Responses

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Manas Ganguly, Kernel Droid. Kernel Droid said: Android: Debating Control of its Platform versus Apostles of Open …: Google's Nexus One wasn't the biggest… […]

  2. said, on June 21, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Google risks OEM wrath for unified Android UI plan…

    Conflicts of interest with Android supporters helped kill Google’s Nexus One project, but that is not stopping the search giant embarking on another bid to keep Apple-style control of the Android platform. Google is reported to be planning a unified u…

  3. […] With the Open source, Android has faced problems in maintaining the sanctity of the platform against loosing out on a unif…. That would reduce the Android experience as a whole and is a negative against the Androids. […]

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