It’s been a few months since Google made such a big splash with the announcement of Android, the open platform for cell phones that is going to set the handset world on its ear.  The Open Handset Alliance that jumped behind Android put some muscle behind […]

Android_logoIt’s been a few months since Google made such a big splash with the announcement of Android, the open platform for cell phones that is going to set the handset world on its ear.  The Open Handset Alliance that jumped behind Android put some muscle behind the new OS and got industry experts excited and ready to go.  Since that announcement the reality of the task at hand has hit Google squarely in the face according to an article on C/NET.  Google has discovered that the only way something like Android can work as a standard is to lock down many key aspects of the OS to prevent fragmentation caused by handset makers who are anxious to get devices on the market.  It is imperative to avoid the fate that has befallen other platforms that intended to create a standard environment like Android so Google needs to define the standard in great detail to make sure that doesn’t happen.  The problem with locking down many aspects of Android is that it begins to chew away at the openness of the platform.  Google has now fully realized that they must lock down a major portion of Android and that it’s going to rankle the members of the alliance. 

Different handset makers, carriers, and chipmakers have different ideasabout how Android phones should look, feel, and work. Everyone wantssomething that’s easy to implement, but that lets them develop theirown identity. Few companies in this industry really want to be anotherHP/Dell/Acer clone maker, beholden to Google for incremental advancesin features, capabilities, and presentation.

This drive to differentiate handsets by the producers of them is something that I wondered about back when the original Android announcement was made.  If Android is a major standard how will the OEMs produce competing products with it that set themselves apart from the crowd?  It sounds like Google is wrestling with this right now and why they’ve been fairly silent lately.  I hope they figure out how to make everyone happy and get on with it.

  1. I do not really understand why the OS has to be designed in a way to ‘lock out’ carriers from changing the OS.

    Actually, I don’t understand why the carriers or manufacturers feel the need to change the OS to put their own spin on it. Dell and HP don’t fundamentally alter the internals of Windows XP or Vista in order to provide the ‘Dell Experience’ or the ‘HP Experience’ to customers. They add their own peripheral software but they don’t go and make the ‘Start’ button say “Dell Go!” or something like that.

    If you give someone an inch, they’ll take a mile. Give the carriers freedom, and we’ll get Google Android updates that have to be customized per device, per manufacturer, and per carrier and we’ll have Windows Mobile all over again.

  2. Welcome to the wild and wacky world of cellphones. The carriers rule.

    I suspected this was going to happen with Android when it was announced. No way can you have one OS on a range of phones from El Cheapo ($15 Tracfone) to El Expensivo (Sony Experia) and not expect the OS to be very different on them.

    Symbian Mark II.

  3. turn.self.off Friday, April 4, 2008

    i would have figured that the only changes needed would be the gui in some ways. like say branding and similar…

    its fully possible to make a gui that can handle that and still take the same apps as all the others of the same platform imo.

  4. I suspect the reality is maybe a little different to the angle Google have chosen to announce this.

    Phone companies love to brand phones and I’m sure Google will make this very easy to ensure sales. However, phone companies don’t like you taking their phones and removing the branding. If the OS was as open as Google initially suggested it would be there would be nothing to stop a user upgrading whenever they want or debranding. Perhaps this is what Google wants to stop.

    Of course, Google will also be locking their own branding in to make sure you can’t get away from the big colourful G.

  5. Jake’s comment makes me sad… but branding is a reality. Actually, I’m not sure how bad branding really is. How many people remove the “Tivo” faceplate from their Tivo’s, the Sony faceplate from their Sony stereos….

    Then again, the other day, I saw a Chevy Blazer that was dropped, with fiberglass bottom trim (ground effects?), big rims, and a big ol’ Cadillac emblem on the back hatch instead of the Chevy cross. No matter what you do, an old Blazer will never be a new Escalade.

  6. turn.self.off Friday, April 4, 2008

    me, i gladly pay extra to have a unlocked and unbranded version of android. hell, that was one of the interesting bits of it, third party apps being able to fully integrated with the existing setup.

    if that does not come true, im going for openmoko…


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