∞ Google's Android isn't so 'open' anymore

Google won over a lot of major companies by using the term “open” when describing its Android mobile operating system. Many are now finding out that “open” was more of a bait and switch.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]Wireless carriers and device manufacturers were allowed to take Android’s source code and make modifications to suit its purposes. That was good and bad.

It was good that companies could personalize the operating system, but that also lead to many variants of Android on the market. Google stepped in and said no more.

According to Bloomberg, Google has made it clear there “will be no more willy-nilly tweaks to the software. No more partnerships formed outside of Google’s purview. From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google’s most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans. And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google’s Android group.”

Wow. That seems to be a long way from being open.

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg says that Google is tightening its policing on “non-fragmentation clauses.” Facebook is apparently upset that Google wants to review modifications it made to Android and Verizon was reportedly held up because it wanted to make Microsoft’s Bing the default search engine.

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber was very clear in his thoughts about Google’s sudden change of heart.

“So here’s the Android bait-and-switch laid bare. Android was ‘open’ only until it became popular and handset makers dependent upon it,” wrote Gruber. “Now that Google has the handset makers by the balls, Android is no longer open and Google starts asserting control. Andy Rubin, Vic Gundotra, Eric Schmidt: shameless, lying hypocrites, all of them.”

I couldn’t agree more.

  • Arnold Ziffel

    Anyone familiar with Eric T Mole is not surprised by this development.

  • This is a great step from Google, to finally say “screw you” to the carriers and OEMs and to give customers a better experience. Bravo.

    • Lee

      The carriers and OEMs are Google’s customers, not the end user. Suppose hypothetically (and hyperbolically) that the carriers and OEMs are upset enough to stop using Android…there is little wherewithal for end users to get Android devices.

      • Arcsine

        Google’s customers are advertisers. Android users are Google’s ‘resource’ that they sell to advertisers.

        If Google stomps on the 2 big Carriers too hard, they only have Apple to turn to. 🙂

        • Lee

          d’oh! You’re totally right, Arcsine, my bad: the customers (those paying Google for their product) are the advertisers. So Google by doing this — by angering an important part of their supply chain, as it were — they are potentially restricting the amount of value they can deliver to their customers.

          There are two explanations that occur to me (certainly not the only two): (a) Google fears that the fragmentation issue is causing real customer hesitancy, and thinks the risk of losing carriers/OEMs over this is less than the risk of losing end users because of fragmentation, or… (b) This is a precursor to Google charging for Android licenses.

          Don’t know about the legalities of (b) or the likelihood. I figure (a) is much more likely.

    • Consumers are the product, not the customer. Google delivers users to advertisers and carriers. User experience is secondary to the deals they can make with carriers.

    • I don’t disagree that it’s a good step. It’s just that it’s a giant step North when they said they were headed South.

  • Waiting for an Android fan to post another labored analogy to life under a fascist government.

    • Anonymous

      But Google is the lesser of two evils: Kruschev to Stalin, right. I mean, “What if Apple told you what you could install on your Mac?” Well, that hypothetical didn’t happen, but the one where Google put its foot down did.

      I wonder if a certain Android guy will move to the Palm Pre like he claimed.

  • Vamsmack

    Thanks for making my friday morning! This is some hilarious shit.

    Please don’t let this be a joke.

    • “Open” was the joke.

      • If only they’d openly admit it.


        Thanks guys, I’m here all week.

  • Arcsine

    If Google is adjusting their control of Android SW, and Carriers get dictated terms, oh well too bad for the carriers.

    The handset manufacturers have always had software decisions dictated to them, by the carriers. What do they care if Google does it now as long as they get their money.

    I have no illusions that the smart phone customers are anything other than pawns to Google, the Carriers, and the manufacturers.

    There’s no reason to get worked up over Google vs Carrier struggles.

    Open/Closed arguments have always been asinine.

  • Anonymous

    Google isn’t selling phones, they are selling your eyeballs to advertisers. They are completely “open” to keeping that arrangement.

  • But wait. Weren’t Android fans saying fragmentation wasn’t an issue? But apparently it was. And Google crowed about how Android is open. But now it isn’t. Dell is trumpeting the benefits of diverse, open, connected enterprise after suckling from the Microsoft lock-in teat for years. And Microsoft is filing an anti-trust suit in the EU? Pretty soon dogs are going to be sleeping with cats.

  • His Shadow

    Let me be the first to say “Ha Fucking Ha Fucking Ha”.

    Sincerely, screw you freetards that constantly bleated the mantra that Android was superior to iOS because it was “open and free”. Choke on it, wankers.

    • YossarianLives

      Although I agree with your sentiment 100%, I feel the eloquence applied doesn’t exactly contribute to the quality of discourse in the technology sphere and merely becomes a goading magnet for polarized like-minded rhetoric.

      But I do call my garage my “Car Hole”, so we are not all perfect.;-)

      • His Shadow

        I hear you. I put a ‘u’ in words like colour and honor. 🙂

        I’m just so utterly exhausted by the “Google is open!” rhetoric that has been used unsparingly hammer “Draconian” Apple, knowing as many do that Google’s rhetoric is entirely empty. And now the other shoe has dropped and Google wants to be Microsoft.

        Glorious, glorious schadenfreude.

        • Agreed. There’s plenty of Draconian to go around, it seems.


    Android had never been ‘open’ for consumers, just for carriers and hardware makers. Now, they’ve even closed it for the hardware makers, it seems.

    • His Shadow

      And this has not generated any controversy what so ever, and I seriously cannot grasp why. The usual suspects in the tech press make their living on link bait articles, rending their garments and gnashing their teeth over the things Apple may potentially do. yet along comes a story of the sea change in Google’s approach regarding the openness of Android and no one thinks this is headline worthy?

      An optional explanation is that the tech press is actually self-aware, and Google’s move just exposes how easily the pundits were duped into buying the whole “open and free” propaganda in the first place.

      But that’s giving way too much credit to Gizmodo and it’s ilk.

  • Yes they claim to be open, but they are not anymore!!..

  • Yes they claim to be open, but they are not anymore!!..

  • anymore? When was it ever “open”? how do you define “open”?

    Here’s my take on how open Android has ever been http://bit.ly/ea5zua (Disclosure: its my personal blog)

    It was “open” only to handset makers and the carriers, to make a good OS as shitty as possible. Most often, it was never “open” to the consumers.

    Its good that Google is taking this step. good for the consumers. not the crapware loading wireless carriers and crapUI loading handset makers!

    Even though Google’s startegy may seem to be evil, I love it, for the way they used the greediness of the carriers grabbing the carriers by their balls 😛 (being evil to an evil organization is good)