Andy Rubin: Android Still Open Sans Restrictions

Amidst fears and concerns over the future openness of the Android operating system, Google’s Andy Rubin has chimed in to correct and contradict recent Internet speculations in a blog post. Rubin is defending Google’s initiatives and maintains that Android will continue to be an open operating system to use without fears of restrictions.

Android to Continue to be Open
Rubin’s blog post comes just as the Internet is swirling with speculations as to why Google is not releasing the Android 3.0 Honeycomb source code. Some sites are speculating that Android will no longer be open-source while others postulating that Google may be taking a different direction in a post-Honeycomb world. According to Rubin, Google is not changing direction and the source code for Honeycomb will come after the team has ported key Honeycomb features to smartphones.


Honeycomb was created, from the ground up, as a the first version of the Android OS to be designed for tablets to better compete with the iPad, which offers a desktop-like user experience to accommodate the larger tablet screen. According to Google, the company has made some shortcuts in rushing Android 3.0 Honeycomb to the market with the Motorola Xoom, and now the company has the unenviable task of trying to merge smartphone and tablet development into the same OS, much like what Apple had done with iOS.

In his blog entry, Rubin writes, “Finally, 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. We remain firmly committed to providing Android as an open source platform across many device types.”

Openness Means No Hardware Restrictions
In response to Internet chatter that Google may be imposing hardware restrictions to its handset-makers for Android, Andy Rubin claims that this is not the case. We had recently written about a rumor that Google may force a certain type of ARM processor on Android devices in the future, and we’re glad to hear that that is not the case.


As always, device makers are free to modify Android to customize any range of features for Android devices. This enables device makers to support the unique and differentiating functionality of their products. If someone wishes to market a device as Android-compatible or include Google applications on the device, we do require the device to conform with some basic compatibility requirements. (After all, it would not be realistic to expect Google applications – or any applications for that matter – to operate flawlessly across incompatible devices). 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.

The customization efforts on the software side has been demonstrated by Samsung. Even with Google’s latest Android 3.0 Honeycomb build, Samsung had demonstrated the Samsung UX interface on the new Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1 models at CTIA last month.


Google’s openness model without any hardware or software restrictions is in stark contrast to Microsoft’s model for Windows Phone 7. While Android’s openness is reminiscent to Microsoft’s old Windows Mobile model, the new Windows Phone platform is more closely akin to iOS where Microsoft is hoping that standardized experiences will be consistent across all devices to create a curated experience.