Open Handset Alliance Members Frustrated With Android - InformationWeek

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Commentary
4/7/2008
10:50 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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Open Handset Alliance Members Frustrated With Android

Android is perhaps proving to be more difficult an undertaking than Google might have initially conceived. More than five months after Android was first announced, many important aspects about Android's code base still must be resolved. The delay is vexing Open Handset Alliance partners, who voiced concerns at last week's CTIA conference.

Android is perhaps proving to be more difficult an undertaking than Google might have initially conceived. More than five months after Android was first announced, many important aspects about Android's code base still must be resolved. The delay is vexing Open Handset Alliance partners, who voiced concerns at last week's CTIA conference.Among the questions that remain to answered are: What sort of freedom will Android developers really have to change the base code and software; how will the base code be maintained in the future and who will maintain it; and exactly which applications need to be included for a phone to fit the Android mold? How many variations on a theme will be allowed?

According to CNET, Google is working hard to make sure it has everything nailed down before moving forward. All it has provided thus far is two versions of the software developer kit. They provide some fundamental frameworks that Open Handset Alliance members have agreed to, and they include the basic screen resolution and how Android software will interact with 12-key and qwerty key configurations. That's not a whole lot to have finalized more than five months into a development cycle, especially with the OHA, carriers, and OEMs expecting to see devices in mere months.

Then there's the level of customization to consider. How free will carriers and OEMs be to make Android their own operating system? CNet's Tom Krazit writes, "Google wants Android to be an open-source project so that it can marshall the open-source community's ideas and let its partners put their own stamp on the software. But it must also prevent Android from turning into a '25 operating systems for 25 carriers' mess of incompatible fiefdoms that defeats the very purpose behind Android's creation. Its trump card might be that Android, and the Open Handset Alliance, are not the U.N."

I don't know that it can do this successfully. Think about Symbian. Symbian provides the base code for at least three different mobile platforms -- UIQ, S60, and Mobile Oriented Applications Platform (MOAP). Sony Ericsson, Nokia, and Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access (FOMA) each took the Symbian core and altered it to suit their own purposes. The result? Three vastly different mobile operating systems. And, of course, each carrier that sells a UIQ, S60, or MOAP device makes further alterations. Symbian may have a huge presence in most of the world, but it has been fragmented too, too far.

It would be a disaster for Android to become fragmented beyond what we've seen with Symbian. Google needs to lock some of the answers to these key questions down, and then let its partners know what is going on. For OHA members to vocally speak negatively about the development process so far shows that Google isn't playing as nicely as it should. This is another case where Google needs to be less mysterious and (pun intended) more "open" about what's going on behind the scenes.

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