Google Withholding Honeycomb Source from Developers Out of Concern for User Experience


Android Honeycomb isn’t designed for smartphones. Andy Rubin and the Android Team have made that perfectly clear, but in case there was still any confusion, the man overseeing Google’s mobile OS has clarified why developers have yet to see the source code for the tablet-specific version of Android. While the Motorola XOOM is already available with Honeycomb on board and developers have already managed to squeeze out builds of the operating system for all sorts of Android devices out of an SDK preview, Google is not releasing the full Honeycomb source out of fears that developers may attempt to code Android 3.0 onto phones, resulting in a “really bad user experience.”

“Rubin says that if Google were to open-source the Honeycomb code now, as it has with other versions of Android at similar periods in their development, it couldn’t prevent developers from putting the software on phones “and creating a really bad user experience. We have no idea if it will even work on phones.”

“Android is an open-source project,” he adds. “We have not changed our strategy.”

The quick turnaround of Honeycomb is the reason cited, with Rubin clarifying that the Android Team had no time to worry about any implementation of the new OS version other than the one headed to tablets. The withholding of Honeycomb from the public is sure to once again raise questions as to whether or not Google is really playing the open source game fairly, or if they are choosing to play by their own rules.

[via Gizmodo]

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  1. if you’re going to keep the stance of open source, it ALL needs to be open source. not just what you decide. regardless of what they think, it would be fun just to mess around with it and see what could come of it regarding mobile handsets

    1. Lol would it make you happier if Android wasn’t open sourced at all?

  2. So what if people want to develop it and put it on their fans. Its open source and at that point when people already know how to flash ROMS don’t you think they can judge if its an ugly user experience. Ive flashed ROMs for other builds and have had a bad user experience…

  3. i never understood the reason why so many folks want honeycomb on their smartphones. that would never work!

    seriously! been using the xoom since launch day, and would never want honeycomb, made for tablets, on a 3.5 inch to 4.3 inch device. it just doesn’t make sense.

    1. Well their isn’t really a rule book to what manufacturers can do with Android… It’s too bad though i wish there was.

      1. There sort of is, but it’s a fine line. If you don’t adhere to the rules, you don’t get Google services (like Market). However, if Google make the rules too strict, the manufacturers go to other market places, and Google Market looses it’s relevance.

    2. How about honeycomb on a nook?

  4. Use at your own risk!

  5. How do the little guys get access to the source in order to make a tablet, direct permission from Google? Isn’t that how Microsoft does it?

    By the way, liking the new comments section. It was defiantly the worst part of the whole website!

    1. This is how it starts. Get ready folks, time for Google to go the Apple route and tell us what we can or can’t do with our phones. I knew it was too good to last.

      1. IF they made honeycomb super polished and had a lot of apps then maybe they could pull off an Apple. But they don’t have that and they need the techie mindshare to keep honeycomb going.
        People like Android, in spite of its imperfections, because they know that it is theirs. Take away that feeling of ownership and people will just go to Apple and Microsoft.

  6. “creating a really bad user experience”

    Who the hell cares if it creates a bad user experience. People CHOOSE to have that bad user experience by putting it on their phone. It’s not as if once they release the source code, all phones will be struck with honeycomb without the users’ permission. How stupid are the people running this company?

    1. Their referring to companies like Archos, who might be stupid enough to create and sell a honeycomb phone…

      1. Good point, but then again, people would have to be stupid enough to buy it… and if they are, well then shame on them.

      2. Sure, some would be stupid to put honeycomb on a phone. But some could be brilliant to put it on a netbook and adapt it for keyboard and mouse. Or a tablet with stylus support (HTC). Or have cisco VPN and webex meetings built in the contacts (Samsung).

      3. Lol Archos man this company seems to have a bad reputation now

      4. Archos already has the Honeycomb source and are using it on their Gen 9 tablets. Read back a few days. Its just *US* their keeping it from.

  7. There’s a simple solution. You should be able to do anything you want with the code but if you change it, you can’t call it Android. Call it Bob’s OS or whatever and hope people won’t mind that it’s not called Android but the genuine Android would be just as Google wants it.
    This is how the Haiku operating system ( works. The OS is MIT (similar to BSD) licensed but when someone tried to make a distro they were told they couldn’t call it “Haiku.”

    1. Ya but then Companies will call it “their” OS and Android won’t be recognized as being the real OS behind it all.

      1. Given how some manufacturer-modified Android builds seem to turn out, is that necessarily a BAD thing?

        1. HTC is #1 in UK and I bet Sense had a lot to do with it.

          1. I also bet a lot of that has to do with HTC being one of the most hacker friendly companies making devices. In contrast, Moto isn’t doing that great with more technical users.

      2. yes but nobody wants Motorola OS that only runs 2 apps. They want Android with google maps and all that fun stuff.
        In the link I posted, an OS could be considered “compatible”

  8. With great power, there comes great responsibility.

  9. How about they just withhold the source code permanently? And not be open source. This would solve the horrible skins and crap applied on top by manufacturers !

    1. But being open source was and still is one of the main purposes of android. Anyone can develop for it, rather than some other OSes…

    2. Google is learning from Apple and Microsoft. Faster update w/o those skins.

      1. It would be open like Windows. Windows can be on any pc, has a file system, easily customized, download apps from anywhere but the source is closed.

    3. Except they are supplying moto, htc, samsung with the code. Just leaving out the public.

  10. Using that logic, why in the F$@# do they provide Motorola source at all so they can do Blur? Or HTC, etc? The community puts out better ROM’s than any of the manufacturers do and Google’s lame reasoning and defense of these garbage UI’s is getting old.

    1. The Lame defending of the mod community is getting old.
      You know someone is full of shit when they say only their group puts out the best mods.
      Funny though that there are a ton more sense users for example than rooted roms

      1. There won’t be Sense OR custom community rom’s if there is no open source.

        1. The impression I got is that there releasing source to hardware companies just not to the general public. Companies like moto and htc all have honeycomb on devices already for testing.

      2. Hopefully you weren’t referring to me as I didn’t even say any group in particular nor do I need to. You could throw a stick and hit a ROM out there and there’s a 99.99996% chance its more usable than most of the Blur phones when they went on sale. And most of the people using Sense don’t even know what a launcher is or know they have a slightly risky choice. Thats the same as saying Internet Explorer 6 is the best web browser because a bunch of people with locked down computers at work can’t use anything else and are forced to use it. Exactly the same. It doesn’t make it good.

        Defending carriers that put bloatware on phones and the manufacturers that indefinitely delay updates to update their buggy UI that ruins the stock experience, thats lame. Its not adding value, its selling iFones.

      3. Thats the saddest and at the same time funniest thing I’v ever herd. Of all the ejimicated people on the subject I’v herd comment or talked to, they all would prefer either Sense or Stock. (HTC is the exception not the rule) And most like the option to install customs.

  11. I liked the “alpha” build of Honeycomb based on the final SDK on my Nexus One. With working calls and wifi added, I would have kept it on.

  12. Finally Disqus! Good job. And I agree that just releasing the code will create a clusterfuck at Android since most manufacturers just care about “We have our first Android 3.0 phone”. Archos will just put it on phones, players, etc.

    I think Google is trying to do things a bit better now. Hopefully.

    1. Or Archos would put it on a cheaper tab (do you really think you’re smarter than these people ?), and Google is not only trampling on Apache License, but on competition laws too…

  13. Rubin, that is a bunch of BS. Developers have been creating “really bad user experiences” since the beginning of android with custom roms.

    So what if it doesn’t belong on phones. I want something better than gingerbread on my tablet.

    Plenty of bad user experiences have been created in the community but don’t forget all the community code that makes its way back in to the project.

    Let the hackers hack.

  14. Withholding the source code is against the open source way. They are just giving the Zoom exclusivity and probably get a chunk of money from Motorola. Don’t think that they are magically making the source code available to all manufacturers, because they aren’t. This will just stall development of new tablets.

    Andy Rubin is cool, he made Android, but his logic sucks on this matter and others.

    1. Makes me curious how LG got the source for it then.

    2. They are not magically making it available to all manufacturers but they are making it available to those that sign licensing deals with them, eg. LG, Samsung, Asus, Acer, Toshiba, etc. No-one is suggesting any magic is involved.

      1. I am

  15. I’ll be odd man out here by saying that I think they have all the right to keep honeycomb under wraps until they want to release it. Sure Android is an open source project, but it’s one driven by Google. If they want to play the game of keeping it closed until they have greater confidence in it then it’s their choice. Open source doesn’t mean open everything all the time. You wouldn’t want to release a feature to the public that you don’t have full confidence in.

    1. Come on!
      Don’t add logic to this!
      The conspiracy theories are more sexy!

    2. Well put. I’m pretty sure it takes quite a bit of work to actually release the source, to protect all of their proprietary code.

      Is gingerbread already out of date already? Some people are still on froyo and haven’t even seen gingerbread yet.

      1. Gingerbread’s source is out. If companies actually take the time to port it to their devices is another thing.

  16. Bad idea.. give it up google. Let people mod their devices as they like.. no one is going to blaim you for giving choice (except the people who are not buying android anyways)

  17. Oh come on! I want to get Honeycomb to my Nook Color!

  18. Yes Cheese not only would it not, make sense, but maybe people would be trying to take their phones back after they screw it up with honeycomb….got to protect your ass no matter the openess code…sure makes sense to me. A heavy traffic of people trying to take back their phones cause they put honeycomb on it could be a big nightmare.

  19. Maybe they simply want to stop the poor user experience on some devices which lag like hell and the people think its google’s fault, where as it could just be manufactures screwing up trying to add stuff with poor programming which gives android a bad name.

    1. Like all the blame and bad publicity Google has been getting for 2.2 running on the G1? .. If you didn’t catch it, there isn’t any.. XDA is thought by many to be the savior of old devices. And people have proven that they don’t place blame when the mods don’t run great.

      In the case of Honeycomb, as the nook has proven.. it actually does run pretty well, even with software made without the source.

  20. I wouldn’t be surprised this was a deal with hardware makers so that Nook’s and Archos and China-tablets with Honeycomb don’t flood the market.

  21. Boycott Honeycomb OS…

  22. Are all of you completely insane? The Android community has been dying for Google to take a stance on quality control for quite a long time. When they finally make the move, everyone freaks out. I’m sure this wont last forever, just until Google figures out how Honeycomb should be implemented in phones. As stated by Google, “Ice Cream” should be a hybrid of Froyo and Honeycomb. Yes, if you are too cheap to buy a Xoom, you may not be getting Honeycomb on your Nook Color for a while… but just give it some time.

    1. It also means no Cyanogen for Honeycomb. This is not what the community wants at all.

      1. I don’t think that Google cares much about the. 00001% of xoom users who will whine about not being able to root.

  23. Thankfully none of the whiners here work for Google

  24. Thankfully none of the whiners posting here work for Google

    1. yeah, like the Xoom is selling realllllly well, huh?

      1. Is the Xoom made by Google?
        Did I miss something?

  25. All these responses are examples of the modding community thinking they are more relevant than they are

    1. Or you under-estimate the modding community. Were I work many people have Android, and at least half of them have their devices mods or would like to soon. It’s no ones fault that you can’t figure it out.

      1. Naturally the people who post here, those you know and work with will have similar interests to yourself, but they’re not representative of the user community at large. You need to look past people like yourself. In general, for the average user who isn’t a tech geek, modding means nothing. They want a stable, easy to use phone, and care nothing beyond that. The modding community is a small niche in an ever growing user base. Were they to vanish altogether, the majority of the user base wouldn’t even know it.

      2. I have rooted 3 different android phones genius.
        it really isn’t any big deal.

  26. Android is distributed under the Apache licence, not GPL. They don’t have to give out the code.

  27. Android is distributed under the Apache license, not the GPL. They don’t have to give out the source code. Nothing to see here.

    1. The linux kernel is GPL, if they made any changes whatsoever to the version of the kernel they are using, they have no choice in the matter. Of course that doesn’t mean they have to distribute the non-GPL parts. I wonder how many of the components of Android are GPL?

  28. People wondered why HTC flyer doesn’t use honeycomb. Now we know. Honeycomb is not open sourced and therefore no sense. If you want custom roms on a tablet you’ll probably want this one :)

  29. Honestly we I also understand google, as much as I like open source but we also need to set the boundaries – if its for tablet let it be.If hackers want to hack honeycomb hack it for tablets.We do not want to be like apple with its ios for iphone and over size one for ipad….let the separation happen.

  30. Google renege on its promise of Open Source. I feel like a fking fool to believe a corporate giant like Google will keep its promise of DO NO EVIL! what bullcrap is this! I’m pissed!!!

    1. The evil would be easily letting people port Honeycomb to smartphones. They are trying to avoid this evil by holding the source back until they can get a phone-equivalent version of Honeycomb (i.e. Ice Cream Sandwich).

      They know how crazy people in the dev community are and how these people may or may not hurt the Android brand by touting Honeycomb on their phones, only for it to perform horribly and create a bad impression for potential Android customers.

  31. Donkey tits! Let the end user decide if the experience isn’t good enough. WTF does Rubin think he is, Steve Jobs?

  32. He said the word “now”,
    “Rubin says that if Google were to open-source the Honeycomb code now…”

    Which probably means its not ready for open source yet. There might be other code that needs to be maintained before it does. Eventually the source will be released. IMO.

  33. This is awesome. All of my android phones since my g1 have been painfully buggy, even to the point I felt like android developers had never even touched an iPhone. Android still has a long way to go but I’m comforted knowing they are aware of the user experience.

  34. I don’t exactly know how I feel about this, as I do not have a tablet of any sort. I been wanting to get a Nook because Honeycomb looked sweet on it, but now I guess no Nookie for me.

    1. I bought a Nook Color last week and put Cyanogen Mod 7 (gingerbread) on it a few days ago. I highly recommend it as an inexpensive way to get a tablet. No camera, so apps like barcode readers won’t function. No microphone, apps like Soundhound don’t work. No GPS, but you can get around that with GPStether if you have a GPS enabled device to tether it to. If you can live without those hardware features, the NC is an excellent device. I’m very pleased with how functional it is.

  35. You are all blowing this waaay out of proportion.

    -Froyo didn’t work well on tablets.
    -Development fork into Gingerbread (Phones) and Honeycomb (Tablets)
    -Future release is planned to bring both Phone and Tablet versions together.

    So they realized there was an issue with tablets, pounded out a solution real quick, but don’t want the quick and dirty fix to be open sourced. I don’t really see an issue here.

    1. I believe most of us want the source so we can build a Honeycomb ROM for the G-Tablet and other ‘tablets’.

      My bet is any Honeycomb based ROM for a phone wouldn’t fare much better than the Sense UI ROM for the Droid which never got past alpha stage. Release the source, let us play, don’t worry so much. :)

      1. Agree. Let developers do what they do. If the result has bad UX, nobody will use it. Sounds like this is more about manufacturer-politics than bad UX.

  36. Open source are all free. Not all free source are open.

    Get it straight, Google.

  37. Hm…Android took a bite of the Forbidden fruit. Learning from the best. (Apple)

  38. After checking multiple sources, then finally talking to Google themselves, it turns out that they are indeed holding back the source code for 3.0 for the forseeable future. *shrugs* oh well, shit happens. I edited my post, I can do no more.

    1. It seems that all of Tech works this way: My “source” says this or that… I don’t see where the source that you refer to is any different. Your blogger says that their story is substantiated by a Google press rep…Which one? Who? Was the blogger saying this to add weight to his/her own story? We don’t know. Their “source” didn’t go on record. As to Google, we still don’t know what the official reason is pro or con, we only know that the Honeycomb Source Code has not been released.

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