In a disappointing move, Google has restricted access to the tablet-oriented version of Android, also known as Honeycomb. Version 3.0 of Android, which many have called a fork of the mobile OS (and now it looks like they were right), is now closed source, with access only going to OEMs and specific developers. While Google claims that they donâ€™t want people experimenting with the OS on smartphones for which it wasnâ€™t designed, one has to wonder if there arenâ€™t other motivations for the move.
According to BusinessWeek,
â€¦throngs of smaller hardware makers and software developers that will now have to wait for the software. The delay will probably be several months. â€œTo make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs,â€ says Andy Rubin, vice-president for engineering at Google and head of its Android group. â€œWe didnâ€™t want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable. So we took a shortcut.â€
A shortcut that certainly goes to the heart of whether Android truly is â€œopen source.â€ In fact, it goes right to the heart of whether Androidâ€™s â€œopennessâ€ is a competitive advantage any longer when independent developers canâ€™t get at the source code for Honeycomb and design the next great thing in the tablet space. I wouldnâ€™t have to work too hard to argue that tablets are actually quite a bit more interesting in terms of potential use cases than phones, but those interesting use cases will require specialized software and interfaces. No open source, no brilliant new medical device, no drastically improved e-reader, no new approach to the legal pad, no whatever that requires developers to take a deeper dive than merely creating an App.