The openness of Android is both its biggest asset, and its biggest headache. On one hand the open nature has allowed a wide range of apps to flourish, while on the other, it has been exploited to spread malware. The open nature has enabled manufacturers to add to the Android experience through custom shells like HTC Sense, but it has also led to a fragmented ecosystem.
Unlike Apple (iOS) and Microsoft (Windows Phone 7), Google has almost no say on when Android version updates are rolled out to users. We have seen manufacturers like Dell and Sony Ericsson launching high-end handsets with Android versions that were more than a year old. We have seen carriers like AT&T indefinitely delaying updates that have already been pushed out by the manufacturer. Worse still, carriers and manufacturers often claim that all this is done in your best interest! However, things are about to change.
According to Bloomberg Business Week, Google will be providing early-access to Android code only to those manufactures who get their plans approved by none other than Andy Rubin. Google has also begun demanding that Android licensees abide by “non-fragmentation clauses” that allow Google to control what partners can do with Android code. Although these clauses have been included in Android’s license for a long time, it’s only recently that Google begun flexing its muscles.
As much as I relish the open nature of the Android eco-system, there needs to be some quality control mechanism in place. Carriers and manufacturers shouldn’t be allowed to get away with preposterous delays. They shouldn’t be allowed to cripple Android by limiting features or installing crapware. When Android was initially announced, Google was dependent on the carriers and manufactures for its success. Now, it is in a position where it can exert its control for the benefit of the ecosystem. Let’s hope that this year will finally see Google stepping up and preventing the openness of Android being misused.