It was very disturbing to learn that Google will not open source Android 3.0 in timely fashion.
Shortly after the release of the Honeycomb 3.0 SDK in February, I was told by a source in the know that tablet source code would be available to developers. But I assumed that this would be done when the code was firmed up -- not when Google felt like doing it.
"The version of Android (3.0-Honeycomb) showed today is optimized for tablet form factors. It's not yet been open sourced. All of the UI changes are the future of Android," the source told me, and then answered by obvious follow up question. "As with all releases on Android, we make it available by open sourcing it - but we haven't announced a timeline."
Google is releasing the source code to OEMs and "select" developers -- but so does Microsoft. That doesn't make it open source.
Google is hinting that its a minor delay, and as noted by my colleague, that its decision is in the best interests of its user base.
"While Google claims that they don’t want people experimenting with the OS on smartphones for which it wasn’t designed, " the story maintains.
I find that rationale a bit ironic, considering that it is Google that has caused much of the market confusion by developing multiple open source operating systems and then spewing forks of each for different purposes.
Ok. Chrome OS is for notebooks. Android is for smartphones and Android 3.0 is for tablets. Clear.
If it's clear to me, then it is clear to developers.
Google ought to be able to trust its developers enough to use the proper code base for the proper purpose. Google, after all, has experimented with the core Android code for which it wasn't initially designed. (Why shouldn't developers if they wish?)
Google's commitment to open source has been questioned in the past, in spite of its mega contributions to Mozilla, standards work and decision to use Linux. Yet it always seems to weather the controversies.
But this? This decision to delay is simply unacceptable.
Android is what it is today because of Linux and because of Google's open source following -- developers, organizations, customers and vendors. Delay the open source release? No. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Developers need the full Android 3.0 code to create the best Android tablet apps possible. Windows developers know full well that Microsoft's access to internal APIs not available in the SDK gave the company an edge in the apps business.
That may not be Google's true motive in this case, but the company needs to be reminded that it does not control Linux or the GPL.
Transparency is paramount in the open source community. The tablet market is going to be huge. It's not fair to lead the entire open source developer community along, enjoy massive success and then pull the plug on its open source commitment as the market wave is poised to peak.
I would strongly urge Google to reconsider this decision -- or face a serious revolt by the open source community.