Just yesterday I grabbed Google Listen for my phone and subscribed to a few podcasts. There aren’t enough of these for Listen, which leads me to think there should be a standard format, and a standard database of some kind to link all these so any podcast program can find them and keep updated. But I digress.
A bigger issue challenging Android is the open-source paradox. In theory, Android is open source. It is free to use. Its SDK can be downloaded and used by anyone (given they have the training and experience). Anyone can make apps and post them to the Android Market for use, and these apps do virtually everything imaginable.
But it’s not all open. Google has already determined that the source code of Honeycomb, version 3.0 for tablets, has not and will not be released. This stems from their fork strategy: version 3.0 is tablet-specific, because according to Google, it was too difficult to build a version that could function both on smartphones and the larger tablets with simple reconfigurations. Thus, Honeycomb could be considered a fork of the smartphone variant of Android. Hopefully in the future, these two forks will reconverge after Google works out some of the kinks, but who knows.
Google says the holding back of Honeycomb’s source code is to prevent mediocre apps from permeating the tablet market, and I guess they have a good point there. But I don’t see too many bad apps on the phones–it’s generally a straightforward process when searching to avoid the ones that don’t look so good–and either way, this still goes against the concept of Android being “open.”
What is more of a problem is the fact that it’s so open to start with–here’s the paradox. Everything is available to everyone, more or less. But most of the Android phone manufacturers aren’t content to just put out a phone with Android. That just won’t do. HTC invented Sense. Samsung made TouchWiz. And Motorola has MOTOBLUR. In some cases, these interfaces have just made things clunky and diluted the Android experience. But that’s just it. In the words of the guys at Android Central, they’re not selling Android, they’re selling the experience.
This also goes against the philosophy of Android, if you ask me–not just because I prefer the vanilla experience, but because these interfaces can’t be disabled or removed by normal means. Even if they are removed, in most cases it has been shown to destabilize the system; at this point it would just be better to root and install a custom ROM. On top of this the manufacturers are violating one of the founding precepts of open software and are making these (considerable) changes to the core of Android without making the changes public or returning them to the source project. This throws the whole concept into disarray, but the worst part of it is that this is happening almost entirely at the manufacturers’ discretion, taking advantage of Google making their source available openly.