When someone gives you services like that of the best search engine in the world [Google] and one of the best email service on the planet [Gmail], the company is good and lives by its motto “Don’t be evil”. But when the same “someone” tries to restrict a version of code, which if released prematurely could prove big harm for your UX, device and the company at the same time, it’s suddenly playing “evil” ?
Let me first take a step back. Is there any serious being on this planet who can confess that he could work (online) efficiently without using Google search or Gmail, even for a day? I guess not. Ever spare a thought as to how these services, which came out of the blue in 2004, completely redefined the way we do things online? Or what could be the factor that motivated the company behind all this to develop and evolve these services in their present awesome form? It wasn’t just about the money since it all began. Google wanted to change the way things used to work or the inefficient way in which they used to work. And it is very much successful in reviving almost all the major domains it tried hard. The advertising fiasco came later with Google for monetizing the things.
I love the way Apple did things with iOS and iPhone too. No doubt, it was the alpha-phone which started the generation of smartphones which are so beautiful in their appearance that anyone with enough bucks is ready to grab one instantly. These are the phones that can do almost anything to your wish, even if you don’t want to make a single call on your phone. But as evident from the history, a market or a segment survives and evolves only if has enough competition to keep all the players constantly on their toes. There came Google with Android. Was there any other competitor for Apple when there was no Android? Symbian was dooming and is eventually dead. BlackBerry was always in the hands of the working and serious business executives and was not even a distant attractive device. We had no WebOS and Palm was also doing no good. So everyone, even out of their choices, wanted an iPhone to do smart things with their phone and at the same time flaunt it as a phone with killer UI and design.
Pitched in Google with Andy Rubin and Android. Google decided to go with the way which formed the basis of Android. Android in its entity is a stripped down Linux distro. It was meant to be Open Source and Google was happy to keep it that way. It provided the source code by means of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) and didn’t ruled the manufacturers and OEMs in any form of agreement for using Android for their phones. That was entirely different from the way Apple handled things by keeping the complete code system for iOS behind its doors. Advantage Google. Starting with HTC, all the major phone makers huddled nearer to Google and Android to start the never ending manufacturing chain of latest Android phones which were conceptualized, designed and manufactured completely to the choice of OEMs. There was the mistake that Google committed. It never kept the central locking key of Android with it and manufacturers started playing with Android to their choice and with their UIs.
Just to justify the things, I cannot completely rule out the custom UIs and modifications like SENSE and MotoBlur that manufacturers did. The hard accepted fact is that these were more accountable in the wide segment acceptability of Android phones. But the obvious problem was that the central Android OS update that Google wanted to roll out were not compatible with these phones. The updates are first routed to manufacturers, who then do their modifications to make the updates compatible with their custom UIs. This delays the timely updates and is a big pain for manufacturers themselves.
This is the so called fragmentation issue of Android that the whole smartphone industry is crying about. Most of the manufacturers have a distinctly modified version of Android for their phones. Google never took any drastic measure to issue this problem. It took a different approach and showed the ideal model of an Android phone with likes of Nexus One and Nexus S, to the whole world. Just to make sure that the same fragmentation problem does not continue with the special tablet version of Android [Honeycomb] Google had announced that they are not going to announce the source code to Android 3.0 Honeycomb anytime soon. To justify the decision Andy Rubin himself said, that to meet the deadlines for Honeycomb they had to take some shortcuts and so the Honeycomb is not all ready for massive tinkering and porting by developers to the device of their choice.
Also now Google is demanding any changes to the code of Android OS should first run past by it. Is that decision real “evil”? This is not even close to the closed-system of Apple. Google is obliged by the GPL license, so they will release the source code for any update to Android. The only concern being “when?”.
More than the manufacturers themselves, the individual Android developers are crying out loud for Google being an “evil”. Really? You still think of it as one when it opened a whole smartphone ecosystem for you to experiment with and test on your phone? Did any such other company had that before? No. Google is just taking some forceful time for it to correct the fragmentation and related issues and trying to polish the Honeycomb code. Even with the Honeycomb branded as the special version of Android meant for only tablets, hackers are hell bent on porting it to phones and any device possible. They will certainly continue to do so and they should definitely do it as the the whole goodness of Open Source system lies in the advantage of source code not bounded or ruled by any single entity. Yes you are free to modify and redistribute to your will. But just pause for a second.
Why don’t you see that, even if done inadvertently, you are trying to destroy the image of a whole brand name and that of a company out there just by demonstrating how incapable the OS is on the real incompatible devices. Google took a big risk by adopting Android and pushing it further for developers and customers as an alternative to the dominance of closed-source system called iPhone. So this is the time for a return gesture of appreciation to the company by being patient for sometime.
For the part of Google, if it really wants to keep Honeycomb off from the devices it wasn’t meant for, it would need to implement a way to blocking it or give developers something else to work with in the form of a new version of Android just for phones. The other daunting possibility is that there will be two concurrent versions of Android being developed at the same time, for separate devices. Will they merge in a future version? The scene looks entirely confusing to me.
Google has to take some smart decision here to keep save its image being branded as an “evil”. These questions are bound to be raised by developers and audience at the next Google I/O event to take place in May. Best of luck Google !