April 6, 2011 at 1:18 PM ET
For all its talk of open source and being a more inviting space for developers, Android is about to get an Apple-like lockdown from its Google masters.
It's not exactly a death grip, but Google will exert much more control over its runaway hit of a mobile operating system, which has in two years become the most popular smartphone platform in the U.S., with only Apple's iOS giving it any kind of pause.
Bloomberg's Ashlee Vance and Peter Burrows recently dropped this bomb on the public, a harsh reality that Google's partners, Android carriers and phone manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Toshiba) have grappled with for months and which has led some of them to the Justice Department to file complaints.
Some of the reasons for those complaints:
But as Vance and Burrows point out, the clamping down is not unexpected either, especially as fragmentation of the Android updates becomes more of an issue on its many mobile devices, now expanded to tablets. (Last week, Reuters reported Google was delaying widespread access to its tablet-only version of Android 3.0, Honeycomb, and made the open source code unavailable, going against tradition.)
The company's moves are hardly unprecedented in such a fast-moving industry. Google owes it to its partners and consumers to prevent Android from running amok. And yet murmurs abound that Android's master has tightened up too much —that its policies limit licensees' ability to differentiate their products.
Business Insider's Dan Frommer also put in his two cents that this isn't the end of the world.
From a consumer's perspective, by the way, all of this is probably a good thing. It sounds like it will lead to more consistent, high-quality Android devices. (Inconsistency, fragmentation, and questionable quality are rampant in the Android portfolio.) And it's not like this is an uncommon way of doing business. Microsoft keeps tight control over Windows Phone 7, Apple doesn't even let other companies near iOS, etc.
Very good points. But it probably won't console those who will look back longingly at Android's lofty beginnings, which promised an ideal of a mobile operating system where everyone was welcome to take a crack at app-making, without going through all the hoops of say, the Apple App Store. But then again, it's also made Android vulnerable to attacks, such as the malware that infiltrated more than 50 apps about a month ago.
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