LONDON – Google Inc. may be entering talks with ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) about a standardization of Android operating system for an ARM-based chipset, according to a Digitimes report that references unnamed sources at notebook computer makers.
Although Android is supposedly an open-source operating-system developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance, there are reports that Google (Mountain View, Calif.) is insisting on a more disciplined – and some would say Microsoft-like – approach to the Android development in an attempt to resist fragmentation.
According to a BusinessWeek report Google is insisting on non-fragmentation clauses in contracts with developers. Companies that want early access to forthcoming iterations of Android now have to get approval for plans from Google. And there is concern that where developers wish to develop applications that could compete with Google functions, such as search and mapping, that approval could be withheld or delayed.
Google has said there are no plans to release version 3.0 of Android, known as Honeycomb, because the source code is not ready. But at the same time Motorola and Acer are releasing devices that use it. This is prompting concerns over favoritism and undue market influence.
Companies affected by the new tighter regime include LG, Samsung, Toshiba and Facebook and there have been complaints to the U.S. Justice Department, BusinessWeek said citing an unnamed source. Similarly Google has been giving different chip makers a head start in bringing up different iterations of the Android OS the BusinessWeek article reported executives as saying.
If Google attempts to define a standard hardware platform as well a limiting software freedoms, the move could hurt Intel which is attempting to move into mobile device space with its processors.
Android already runs on ARM architecture processors in the vast majority of cases as ARM is the dominant smartphone architecture. However, as the operating system, middleware and applications stack is supposedly open-source and based on a modified Linux kernel and the Java language it is in theory applicable to any processor including the Atom processor of Intel Corp.
"And there is concern that where developers wish to develop applications that could compete with Google functions, such as search and mapping, that approval could be withheld or delayed." With google expanding operations beyond searching and mapping, will there be any freedom at all left to the developers for so called "open source" OS?
It would seem to still be room to optimize a computer architecture for mobile type operating environments of which Android is just one example.
Standardizing on Arm and enforcing that standardization could be a detriment to future performance.
It appears as though the platform is become more open to some than to others... I read in another article that 3.0 cannot be put on a devices that was shipped with 2.x, regardless of hardware compatibility... Sounds like someone at Google has decided that they need to make more money of phones...
These complaints need to be put in context. Google has like 5% of the tablet market and even less of the mindshare for that market. In order for them to establish a solid position they need a small number of successful platforms. Flood the market with enough me-too tablets and none of them will stand out against the iPad.
I think Google either (a) is becoming power drunk and looking to exert control, or (b) is becoming concerned over a perception of a problem of fragmentation. Is fragmentation really a problem? On the one hand, sure, people want a consistent user experience across platforms - the ability to buy from any manufacturer and know the user experience will be identical. But the problem is that this stifles innovation. With this approach you get no choice and have to take whatever the powers that be deem you shall have. This is one reason why people oppose Apple. Why would we want Google to turn into what is disliked about Apple? Rather the strength of Android is the opportunity to try many different approaches in parallel and see what sticks. Why shouldn't manufacturers be allowed to try different things to find out what really works for people and let the people decide what works for them? That's what the free market is all about - many entrepreneurs trying different things and the consumers choosing the winners and losers - in the end consumers get the best of all possible ideas, not just the ones that a controlling power deems consumers shall have. Android is free market empowering and empowered. Why eliminate that? The power of Android was the ability to bring all possible ideas to market, but now Google seems to be making moves to obstruct that ability because they are more worried about the perception of fragmentation that would bring.
Definitely a possibly huge catalyst for ARM Holdings stock (ARMH). I am agnostic as to whether this could be a bit of a negative for Google from a PR standpoint. Referenced this article in my bullish case for ARM here: