Ina Fried

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What Google’s Andy Rubin Means When He Says Android Is Open

Although critics say that Google is not being genuine when it calls Android open, the operating system’s creator defends its description as open–at least if you define open the same way he does.

On Tuesday, Rubin highlighted the difference between something being released as open source code and a community project. Android is most definitely the former, Rubin said, but not as much the latter.

“Android is light on ‘community-driven’ and heavy on open source,” Rubin said, speaking to reporters after the Android keynote at Google’s I/O conference. “Everything that we do ends up in an open source repository.”

The challenge, he said, is that Google is building a platform rather than just an app. Open source projects for entire platforms don’t work so well, Rubin said, because it is hard to tell when anything is final.

“Typically, in my opinion, community processes don’t work, because you need to know when you’re done,” Rubin said. “If it’s a community process, someone could take an early version before (it is) locked down, and those devices would be incompatible.”

Although the company does accept submissions for Android code, it acts not only as its main creator but also as a shepherd to make sure that the same programming interfaces make their way to all Android devices (or at least all that claim full Android compatibility.)

Concern over Google’s tight control over Android has been heightened after the company said it was delaying the release of Honeycomb’s code. The company said that to get Honeycomb on tablets quickly, the company didn’t bring over the necessary software to make sure it worked well on phones.

On Tuesday, the company reiterated that the next release of Android–Ice Cream Sandwich–will work on all devices and it is that software that will be released as open source code after it is finalized later this year.


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle