Friday, May 27, 2011 - 02:26

Why Google's approach to withholding Android 3 source code is bad practice.

There're quite a few crying murder because Google is holding back the sources to Android 3, aka honeycomb, until they deem it ready...Whenever that is. You've a lot of I knew it and It's the end of open source Android. While I do not like the fact that Google is holding back the sources I perfectly well understand why they do it.

Let's have a short look at the facts. Google can only hold back the sources because they are doing all the work. Open Source ( even GPL ) does not require you to release any sources derived from your own code. So if you do all the work then of course you make the rules. You just can't hold back other people's code. And this pretty much shows how much the community is actually working on Android. On honeycomb it's obviously virtually non existent.

Some folks apparently fear Google's somewhat turning Android closed source again. That's most likely not going to happen. What Google's doing is restricting low quality rank growth. Android's a free and freely available platform and it's open source. But it's also a brand. One that's linked to Google. So - whether open source or not - Google has to be a little bit careful who's using it. I perfectly well understand that Google does not want to be linked to another 100$ made in China iPad wannabe killer. Those low quality packages - phones asĀ  well - hit the brand and with that not only Google but all the other high quality partners as well.

Google's official statement is that Honeycomb isn't quite finished but that's bollocks. It's shipped. If that's true everyone should think twice or more about buying a device with honeycomb. The SDK is available. So it can't really be that far from finished really. The reason is reputation and that's quite frankly a very real issue.

Samsung Nexus S runs Android 2.3.1 ... so does China-backyard-iPhone-look-alike # 372.

The solution however is not withholding the code until some folks got something good on the road. It doesn't really change the problem. It just postpones it. Customers will still have Android here and the same Android there. Instead Google should introduce brand licensing. You have a license, you can name it Android. You don't you can't. This would pretty much reduce the impact on customers. People who know will still see that it is Android. But people with knowledge about the specific way Android can be used would not project experience from said Chinese phone to one made by Samsung. They know it's not the same.

And by withholding sources you run into a very specific trap. Who says Motorola makes innovative...or even good devices? I would object that idea pretty strongly. It might very well be that your iPad killer comes from a direction you wouldn't have expected. It's actually the more likely scenario as the usual guys stick to what sells. And that's more like copying or make things better. it's evolution at best...not revolution.

To get into the driver's seat evolving is not enough. You need to revolt and turn it upside down. I would have guessed that Google knows that better than anyone else.

I'm not going to start name calling here but Google needs to consider the idea that they might not have the right folks in the chairs where the track is planned. It's not just the OS. It's the entire package that's not running as smoothly as it should. The market is another huge construction yard. The priority between feature and fixing quite obvious bugs seems to be in some sort of imbalance as well.

It's not that Android is heading in the wrong direction. It's just that the driver is not the best when it comes to using a map.