Though Windows Phone 7 has only been available to consumers for a little over four months, developer tools for the platform have been available for more than a year.
Ever since Google introduced the Android mobile OS to the world in the fall of 2008, the company has advocated an open-source approach to its development and implementation. On one hand, this attitude helped fuel Android's auspicious growth. On the other hand, it also resulted in a fragmented OS. Now, Google is beginning to rein in the rampant tweaking of the software, in an effort aimed at uniformity.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that Google over the last few months has sent this message to the major carriers and device manufacturers that support Android: Playtime is over. Google, particularly Android head Andy Rubin, will have oversight of any future Android partnerships, and anyone who wants early access to the latest iteration of the software will need to seek permission from Rubin himself.
"The Google that once welcomed all comers to help get its mobile software off the ground has become far more discriminating—especially for companies that want to include Google services such as search and maps on their hardware," Bloomberg reports.
Ostensibly, Rubin predicted the fragmentation that would follow a platform as open as Android. That's why the company chooses a chipmaker and device manufacturer when it launches a new product, to show off what it can accomplish. In the past, it was Qualcomm and HTC -- both companies have made huge market gains as a result.
According to several sources for Bloomberg's report, Google has demanded that Android licensees abide by "non-fragmentation clauses" that grant Google the final word on customization matters. It also means they need approval from Google to partner with others. John Lagerlin, director of global Android partnerships, told Bloomberg that it's about quality control and aiming towards a "common denominator" experience.
And while Rubin claims that a clause has always been part of the license, sources say that Google has been clamping down in recent months. Facebook, which is trying to launch its own Android device, has reportedly been unhappy because of Google's oversight. Google has also gotten involved with an upcoming Android phone from Verizon that incorporates rival Microsoft's Bing search engine, holding up its release.
This policy has reportedly resulted in complaints to the Justice Department. Google declined to comment on this aspect.
In addition, Google has also begun to withhold code from the public, which hurts developers and smaller companies. According to Bloomberg, Google will not release the source code for the tablet Honeycomb OS anytime in the near future.
"The premise of a true open software platform may be where Android started, but it's not where Android is going," Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop told Bloomberg. Elop, a former Microsoft executive, recently established a "strategic partnership" with his former employer instead of Google because, he says, he would be able to innovate more with Windows Phone 7 than Android.
"Microsoft often got criticized for treating all partners the same, whether they were doing great work or mediocre work," Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told Bloomberg. "Google seems to have no problem with playing favorites."
The bottom line from the report: "Despite grumblings, Google's Android mobile operating system is still open—it's just getting more heavily policed."