9 Comments

Summary:

An inteview with lead engineer Andy Rubin at Google answered some questions about patents, fragmentation and other hot topics in the Android world. His answers make sense but make it clear that Google may be playing with fire given the fast development rate with Android.

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It seems that Android is on everyone’s mind, with an endless stream of information appearing daily about the platform and Google’s plans for it. Gizmodo interviewed Andy Rubin, lead engineer in charge of Android, and it is worth a read for the platform’s enthusiasts. Rubin answered some questions about patents, fragmentation and other hot topics in the Android world. His answers make sense but make it clear that Google may be playing with fire given the fast development rate with Android.

Rubin has an almost cavalier attitude about the HTC patent situation that has gotten a lot of attention recently. He views the licensing of Microsoft IP by HTC no different than a company licensing MP3 technology to produce an audio app using the technology. He’s right this is similar, but Microsoft has indicated it is concerned about Android, not just HTC’s implementation of it, as infringing on its IP. That implies that the platform itself is viewed by both HTC and Microsoft as needing this IP protection, and that means every company producing Android handsets may need to license the technology from Redmond. This has the potential to have a financial burden to companies producing Android handsets. Rubin’s response in the Gizmodo interview ignores HTC’s suits with Apple, and makes one wonder if HTC is on its own as far as Google is concerned.

When asked about fragmentation of the Android platform, admittedly due to the fast release rate of new versions of the OS, Ruben compared it to Windows of all things. He was asked specifially about the new Twitter app that requires Android 2.1 to run, and how that means that many existing handsets cannot run it.

I mean there are apps written for Vista, just like Photoshop CS5 does not run on Windows 3.1. I mean it’s just a fact, there’s nothing new here.

The problem is that Android is not Windows, and I am not sure that Google should want to emulate the Windows ecosystem. The timeframe between version updates of Windows is measured in years, and with Android so far this has been measured in weeks. Rubin does claim that this problem will not be as noticeable in the future, as releases for Android are going to slow down. One has to wonder how that will affect the rapid growth of the platform. Google is doing a great job with Android but had better tread softly to not rock the boat.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

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  1. “fragmentation” wouldn’t be so bad if the carriers got updates out to the customers more quickly and consistently.
    Obviously, some features wouldn’t be available on older handsets, but there should be a way to selectively disable that versus denying the whole update.

  2. BP’s point is a good one, though this is not the carrier’s responsibility.

    A friend of mine got a phone from Samsung recently, with Android 1.6. It took four or five months for Samsung to get the Android 2.1 update working on the phone.

    This is something that the phone-makers have to understand. Generally, it’s a “build it, ship it, forget it” mindset. Unless there’s some failure, the idea that you would update your phone is foreign to them. After all, they already got your money. Why should they invest time, effort, and money making the old phone work with the new operating system?

    Of course, this is something customers like. They like it when Apple “gives” them a new operating system which does stuff that the old one didn’t.

    Again, the idea is to compete in customer service. If you get the updates out, you’ll have happier customers. Those customers, when they decide to buy a new phone, are more likely to buy a Samsung phone than the equivalent Motorola or HTC phone.

  3. onecallednick Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    This Microsoft patent claptrap is getting old. Why won’t they tell us what they’ve got?

    1. For me Google has already blown it with the fragmentation issues and will not be buying an Android phone again. I really do like my HTC Hero with sense, but it seems to have been forgotten about and is less than a year old!

      It will be an Apple 4g or Microsoft Phone 7 for me next, and I suggest this to everyone I know.

  4. I agree, i think it will be windows phone 7 for me also, being majorly stung by this fragmentation issue (sony xperia series not even getting 2.1 untill christmas!!!? no word on 2.2 for this device either. The customer should not have to rely on the good folks at XDA to acheive rooting and custom roms. there is really only htc that are quick off the mark getting updates on their flagship phones. Google need to enforce a timeframe for manufacturers to get updates out quicker, say 2 months. Right now Sony Ericsson dont really care as they have had my money and given me the middle finger, they are just too dumb to realise that the brand loyalty is weening away….fast!

    1. Y’all could really benefit from a hacker mentality. Don’t be afraid to hop on some forums (xdadevelopers.com for instance) and learn how to flash a 3rd party rom on those bad boys! You’d be amazed at the difference. It’d be nice if handset manufacturers magically decided that they should keep all the handsets up with the times as priority no. 1, but these are monolithicly slow corporations to change. Look how long it took sony to get android into their handsets in the first place! Take matters into your own hands and you’ll be much more satisfied with your device experience.
      Good luck with windows phone 7 or iPhone OS. Enjoy your walled garden, have fun being spoonfed by anticompetitive corporations.

  5. RawApps Website Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    This is my favorite part from the article: “The problem is that Android is not Windows, and I am not sure that Google should want to emulate the Windows ecosystem.”

  6. Nah… I say, go ahead, rock the boat, Google!

    It’s about time someone pushed the envelope, and it’s about time the pace of tech innovation wasn’t stifled by manufacturers and carriers.

    Apple’s beating at the rhythm of its own drum and pulling AT&T along kicking and screaming. Don’t look at Microsoft to lead.

    I think HTC’s doing a pretty good job at keeping up with Google, and updating its devices.

    When the consumer is getting the shafted on Android updates it’s primarily the fault of the manufacturers and carriers being greedy.

    They want to sell more devices they don’t intend to support and lock more people into more contracts. That’s the problem – just look at the Samsung Behold II/T-Mobile fiasco.

    I voted with my wallet, by buying the Nexus One contract free at launch which I know Google and HTC are likely to support for at least a year.

  7. everyone is missing the backstory here. rubin founded danger which included its own OS and numerous industry firsts – and the patents to go with them.

    microsoft bought danger, not for its success but for its patents and mobile IM system.

    rubin was pushed out of danger, started android and invariably took a lot of know-how with him. android likely infringes on the IP that microsoft now owns in numerous and probably very substantive ways. someone who does their IP research on this could probably write a very interesting article.

    microsoft also probably has claims to start a patent fight with apple over the iphone if they chose to, but such a move might backfire on them.

    this is the interesting twist to this story that will play out over the next several years.

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