I’ve been an Android user since Verizon, Motorola, and Google got together and released the original Droid. While my SmartPhone has begun feeling slow and bloated as it’s aged and I’ve added app after app to my mobile arsenal of tools, I love my Droid, and I’m a real Android fan.
The problem with Android, though, is that there are too many versions of the operating system in use. Android comes pre-installed on SmartPhones, and while the geeky among us can make changes, the version you get from your carrier is what you’re stuck with.
There’s a piece of this that’s OK. As SmartPhones become more and more powerful and the apps we install on them need more and more of that power, it becomes impractical for people using older phones to run Android operating system updates. I may not be a fan of the way Apple does business or the iPhone, but iOS is iOS, period, and your iPhone just plain works. With Android, there’s plenty of opportunity to make that last statement false.
(Insert snarky comments from Apple iPhone fanboys here)
Not surprisingly, though, Google’s approach to fixing Android fragmentation is less about helping Android users than it is about helping Google.
In demanding the right to approve the way Android is delivered, Google’s goal is to stop phone carriers from making deals with Google’s competitors. For example, as things work now your Smartphone could be set to use Bing or Yahoo as the default search engine instead of Google. Or a carrier could make a deal with a map provider to showcase their mapping software, pushing Google maps out of the way.
The question is whether Google is going to get away, mid-stream, with changing Android from open source software where making changes is allowed to code that comes with strings attached in the form of Google having the right to tell you how you can alter “your” version of Android.
It wasn’t long ago that Google released the Nexus One SmartPhone, promising a new model for the way phones were sold and phone service was purchased. But only a few months later Google backed away from that promise, and I suggested that the Nexus One had been just a Trojan Horse in Google’s plan to encourage Android adoption.
That plan worked; Android is now huge, and “backlash from the community” over Google’s new plans just won’t matter.
On the other hand, Google needs to keep an eye on the anti-trust police. Remember when Microsoft dictated what a computer company was and wasn’t allowed to put into “their” version of Windows?
Dear Google: Heads up managing this business change.