It is time for Google to take control of Android

It is time for Google to take control of Android

Summary: The looseness of the Android platform has been its biggest draw, but there is such a thing as too much openness, and it is beginning to impact customers in ways that Google surely didn't intend to happen.

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TOPICS: HTC, Android, Google, Samsung
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One of the reasons Android has grown like no mobile platform in history is the open nature of the OS. OEMs, developers and buyers have flocked to a platform that allows modifications across the board, creating the ability for anyone to make Android look and work in many ways. The looseness of the Android platform has been its biggest draw, but there is such a thing as too much openness, and it is beginning to impact customers in ways that Google surely didn't intend to happen.

Colleague Scott Raymond has penned a rant that points out how this openness bites users where it hurts. His problems with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 were caused by Samsung deciding to change core Android code in a way that broke the Tab's ability to communicate with Google's backend servers. Read that statement again, and then go read Scott's piece in its entirety to fully understand what is going on with Android.

Breaking Android: Who is worse, Google or the OEMs?

Scott's take on the whole Tab situation is understandable, he wonders if the fault lies with Samsung or with Google. My take is simpler, I put the blame squarely on Google's shoulders as owners of the platform. No OEM should be able to change the core underlying code of Android for any reason. It is possible for a platform like Android to be open yet have core OS functions remain locked down. That's what Google should have done from the beginning, but the loose way it has approached Android has failed to do.

I have been using Android phones and tablets since the beginning, and for the most part I love them. They work well most of the time and are a joy to use. That is the case until something goes wrong, and as Scott discovered it usually is the result of one of Google's partners changing something on a given device that jams up the pipes.

I always suspected this was the case and it was proven to me when I switched to the Samsung Nexus S 4G recently. The Nexus S is Google's flagship phone, and as such it bypasses all of the Samsung customizations in favor of running stock Android. This has resulted in a user experience better than I have experienced with all other Android devices. The operation of the phone is perfect, and the performance is stellar in every way.

This makes sense as Google uses the Nexus S to test Android builds before release. The device has no OEM changes to clog up the works, and Android runs flawlessly as a result. This demonstrates the benefits of locking down core parts of the Android OS, something Google desperately needs to do. The user experience varies so widely among Android devices that it doesn't do Google any favors, and eventually it will come back to haunt them.

I have ranted before about Google's need to take control of Android in regards to system updates and that remains unchanged. While the openness of the platform requires the participation of third parties in the update process, Google still needs to take control over how they are done to better serve Android device owners.

Google has acknowledged that is the case, and announced the formation of a coalition of major players at the Google I/O conference a while back. The sole purpose of this coalition is to make sure that Google controls the Android update process in order to guarantee that buyers of devices running the OS can be certain how and when system updates will reach them. Unfortunately, while smacking of good intentions nothing further has been heard about these improvements since the announcement.

My favorite tablet is still the original Samsung Galaxy Tab that I bought from Sprint. It's a good tablet that became even better when Sprint recently released a major update that upgraded it to Gingerbread. Unfortunately, those who bought the Galaxy Tab from other Google partners are still waiting for this update, further demonstration of the broken system.

The time for good intentions has passed. Android device owners need Google to take control and make things work properly. Keep the platform open where it counts, but lock down the core parts of the OS to make partners toe the line. Customers will thank you.

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Topics: HTC, Android, Google, Samsung

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83 comments
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  • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

    May be in next life. The oppurtunitiy for android has passed. They should have taken a lesson or two from windows mobile. May be some teenagers have time to 'cusomize' their phone but average customers don't.

    Nobody with basic IQ will buy the 'openness' story from Google. Where is HoneyComb source ??? They only want to fill their pockets. Should call them traitors.


    With so many legal troubles and fragmentation, the fall of android will be twice as fast as it rose.
    owlnet
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @owlnet +1
      Hasam1991
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @owlnet
      +1
      Ram U
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @owlnet
      As a 35 year old android user I cutomize my phone and tablets all the time.Its simple quick and lets me have it my way. I am not sure how old you are but it's not kids customizing phones but almost everyone who isn't tied to an apple product. You might want to catch up you seem to be a few decades in the past.
      Fletchguy
      • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

        @Fletchguy Sure let's all be tied to a mobile OS that isn't being updated on each handset, that is fragmented, buggy, and is NOT open source (as of Android 3x unless I somehow missed the big announcement of the Honeycomb source code being released to the wild by Google).

        As for the Apple products perhaps you have not heard of jailbreaking - it's the equivalent of rooting an Android device and has been around since a few months after the initial release of the original iPhone 2G... As a 40 year old iOS user I have my iPhone jailbroken and my Nook Color rooted to run Gingerbread - despite my rant above I do not dislike Android at all in fact I find it to be a decent mobile OS I simply prefer iOS for many reasons - but the sheer blindness of you fandroids is a bit irritating.
        athynz
      • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

        @Fletchguy You need to get a clue. Sure, it's not only teenagers that are customizing their phone but it's FAR from the majority of users. You Fandroids go on and on about freedom and choice when talking about Android but cluelessly let it go right over your head that those on other OSes (be it iOS, WP7, RIM) have used their freedom to make a choice. They chose a different OS because they liked it better for whatever reason.
        non-biased
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @owlnet
      Only one small problem with you idea. That is handset makers are used to paying royalties for their handsets. So them having to pay on Android and yet still have more control will not hurt the Android market. Customers are also used to every phone having a different interface and in fact updatable phones is only a fairly recent thing and the average user, not power user, isn't going to care about updates as long as the version they buy works for them.
      tim.w.jung@...
      • Here here!

        @tim.w.jung@... I think it is so easy for tech forum junkies to forget they are not the average user. The average user (My parents for instance) get a new phone about every year (cuz my mom sweet talks her way out of the regular 2 year cycle using her old lady voice). Every year my mom has to learn a new phone system. She never gets software updates. She just gets a new phone. Most of the time she could care less about what software it is running. She just wants it to look pretty and sound good when talking to her grandkids. Oh, and looking pretty is optional.
        kwabinalars
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @owlnet

      Nicely said.
      dcristof
    • I'm glad I haven't bought a newer phone...

      @owlnet <br>I'm still irritated that I was an early adopter, first-day G1 owner (a.k.a. paying beta tester), and I was left at 1.6. I don't even have Flash capability, and half of the "apps" that are advertised on TV by major companies won't work on anything less than 2.1 (with the exception of redbox, which I downloaded a few minutes ago).<br><br>That said (since my carrier obviously would rather I buy a new phone with another 2-year contract), I really wish Google would offer upgrade options to people in my position -- when the carrier won't.<br><br>Oh, and I forgot about my wife's irritation: her Motorola phone is only 8 months old and it came with 1.5 with no upgrade option! What is that garbage? We really need standardization on OS version and functional experience. My wife's phone is so bloated with Motorola's UI modifications that it's irritating for me to use, with only stock Android experience.
      Bit-Smacker
  • stop whining!

    If you don't understand Open source, don't use it.
    So far OSS is the most innovative and the best business model!
    Linux Geek
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @Linux Geek And that is why open source is the most widely used platform... oh wait it's NOT. So best business model - NOT. Innovative? in the case of Android not so much as it is a clone of iOS and was formerly a clone of the BB OS. So innovative - NOT.
      athynz
      • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

        @athynz BINGO! - well done
        ItsTheBottomLine
    • Well said

      @Linux Geek Android is Open Source. Open Source is open. Expect changes to be made by whomever has the ability to code. The best thing Google could do is message board/blog where users can report/discuss their phone's performance.
      Sagax-
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @Linux Geek If you don't understand the real world stay out of it. Oh, that's right you are not in the real world you live in your mom's basement.
      non-biased
  • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

    The problem is that android is linux. There is no helping linux thus no helping android.
    LoverockDavidson
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @LoverockDavidson Which is why Windows Mobile has been the abysmal failure it is, right? Microsoft Mobile was there years before anyone else and like so many things that came out of MS someone else took the ball and ran with it while Redmond had that deer in the headlights dazed look on their face. I still remember Ballmer?s interview where he called the first iPhone a fad. Ballmer has no vision and until MS loses him and his posse MS will continue to lose market share until they are no longer relevant just like Borland.
      balsover
  • open source doesn't matter to me anymore. I want stability.

    open source doesn't matter to me anymore. I want stability.
    systemx
    • RE: It is time for Google to take control of Android

      @systemx
      Go with Apple... trust me, you won't regret it.
      Hasam1991
      • Even Apple suffers from such problems

        @Hasam1991<br><br>Even Apple suffers from such problems.<br><br>My recently purchased Verizon iPhone 4 can't be upgraded from the iphone 3GS. It turns out the iphone 3GS runs 4.3 and Vzn iphone 4 runs 4.2.
        rlawler