Google Withholds Android Honeycomb Source Code
Google is delaying the release of its Android Honeycomb source code as a quality control measure
Google has decided to delay the distribution of its latest Android source code, known as Honeycomb, in a move that is likely to rile the open-source community.
The company, whose open-source philosophy distinguishes it from proprietary software vendors such as Apple, Microsoft, and Research In Motion, said that it has more work to do before the mobile operating system is ready for certain types of devices, including smartphones.
“We’re committed to providing Android as an open platform across many device types and will publish the source as soon as it’s ready,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.
Optimised for tablets
Google unveiled Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) in February, describing it as the first version of its Android operating system to be optimised for tablets. The software made its debut on the Motorola Xoom, which launched on 24 February, and is expected to appear on many more tablets – from the likes of Samsung, Dell, HTC and Acer – in the coming months.
Traditionally, Google has made Android source code available to device makers at an early stage, allowing them to begin work on their products as soon as possible. However, this time, smaller hardware makers and software developers will be forced to wait for several months.
Andy Rubin, vice-president for engineering at Google and head of its Android group, described the move as a necessary trade-off to make sure it could push forward with Honeycomb in a timely manner.
“We didn’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,” he told Business Week.
He said that allowing developers to put the software on smartphones at this stage could result in “a really bad user experience,” adding that he didn’t even know whether the operating system worked on phones.
Developers could help?
However, open source advocates argue that Google could benefit from the input of open source developers, and that blocking them out is misguided.
Eben Moglen, a professor of law at Columbia Law School and the founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center, warns that Google is simply repeating the past mistakes of other companies that tried to impose tight controls on the release of their open-source software.
A spokesman from the Free Software Foundation Europe told eWEEK Europe that this is a common problem for open source developers working on a project that depends entirely on one company. It is a Google’s perogative to withhold the code, and although developers
Earlier this month, free software activist Richard Stallman warned that Google would apply proprietary practices to Android. “The source code of Android is free as Google releases it, but they use a non-copyleft licence, except in the case of Linux,” he said. “This doesn’t protect users from lockdown, or Google-isation, which is the practice of making a program non-free by stopping the user from installing his own version.”