in Mobile, Open Source

Google locks Honeycomb in a box

Android 3.0 Honeycomb

In times of war, strategy matters. And Google, by limiting access to the source code for Android 3.0, or Honeycomb, is playing the game right. Despite its image as a campaigner of open source, this step was deemed necessary by Google. For the obvious reason being – Business Competition.

According to Business Week,

throngs of smaller hardware makers and software developers that will now have to wait for the software. The delay will probably be several months. “To make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs”, says Andy Rubin, VP – Engineering at Google and Head of its Android Group. “We didn’t want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable. So we took a shortcut.”

Losing the reputation of complete ‘open’ software, Google cannot use that as a competitive advantage. The reason for this hold-off is that Honeycomb is not ready to be altered by other devices, such as phones.

Google has, in the past, given device makers easy access to Android versions by releasing the source code to public, so that they could work accordingly. By holding off, Google is trying to prevent shoddy execution of a slick OS. With hackers who live by the motto of “Let’s push this button”, Google’s move is in the right direction. Hackers have already tried putting Honeycomb on prehistoric models like T-Mobile G1 and Nexus One.

Dave Rosenberg, longtime executive in the open-source software world, describe Google’s move as well-thought, “Everyone expects this level of complete trust from a company that’s worth $185 billion,” he says. “To me, that is ridiculous. You have to be realistic and see that Google will do what is in [its] best interests at all times.” Android 2.x was not meant for larger screens, hence the users had a bad experience. Google wants to prevent the opposite from happening, where Android 3.0 hinders non-tablet device experiences, and the best way to do this is to limit access to the code for as long as possible.

This decision will not affect the production and release of current manufacturing partners’ products and even App builders do not require the Honeycomb’s code for their purposes. In addition, HTC, Samsung Electronics, Motorola Mobility Holdings and other big manufacturers already have access to Honeycomb. Hence the little compromise on the open-for-all policy will act in favour of Google, by building customer faith and software optimisation.

More than building up trust, Google it will act as a solodifying factor. No doubt, Google’s this step will chafe FOSS advocates to a gargantuan extent. But as they say, this seems in the best interest of Google. If you think otherwise, let us know your thoughts and reasons behind them.