Apr 1st, 2011

After learning that Google was holding Honeycomb’s source back from all but major hardware partners, we panicked. The day may have finally come where Google was no more open than Apple. Another angle presented itself, though – Google was just getting sick and tired of fragmentation on their platform. Yes, the problem is VERY real even with most users now on Android 2.1 or higher.

New reports have surfaced that seems to back-up Google’s stance going forward. They’re said to be working with ARM in standardizing their architecture for Android. The problem now is that ARM’s chipset differs in instruction sets from release to release making it difficult for OEM software engineers and application developers to target multiple platforms.

The original report made it sound as if Google had chosen ARM as some sort of unofficial architecture partner, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Art Swift of MIPS reports that Google invited them to sign an “antifragmentation” clause alongside the likes of Intel, ARM, and any other architecture vendor who wants to provide Android-compatible systems.

The move is said to ensure that application compatibility and portability can be accomplished with little to no issue. He reports that OEMs and chipset providers who want early access to new versions of Android must sign this clause, otherwise they’ll have to wait until Google provides the source to the general public. (And if Honeycomb’s delayed release is anything to go by, there’s no telling how long that will take.)

It may seem like doomsday for the openness of Android but I, for one, welcome the cause. If this will help unify the Android experience from device to device and if it ultimately means faster updates regardless of which manufacturer you choose to buy your products from, then I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with it.

We want open, but with that comes the consequences we’ve been facing for the past couple of years. You have to compromise in this situation and meet in the middle with something. You should still sleep well at the end of the day knowing that Android is more open than any other mainstream platform commercially available.