updated 02:00 pm EDT, Fri September 24, 2010
Google chief says Android can't be forced as stock
Google chief Eric Schmidt in an interview posted today (video below) from from the Zeitgeist conference provided contradictory answers on why the company refuses to require an option for unaltered Android on smartphones. He insisted to Search Engine Land that the company couldn't make carriers or phone designers give the choice since it would be "violating the principle of open source." The principle demands that everyone have control, even if it means options being locked out for end users.
Sun had tried a pseudo-open implementation of Java during Schmidt's tenure there that failed, the executive said. Most of Java is now completely open source under a GNU license.
The statements run against some of Google's own stated policies. Although the core OS is modifiable, Google prevents companies from using the full apps and feature set unless certain branding terms are met. Its decision to use "basic compatibility requirements" to ensure a "consistent experience" have also come under fire, as the company is facing a lawsuit from Skyhook for allegedly excluding competition. Motorola and others had tried to use Skyhook for location services on their phones but were forced to use Google's method to move ahead.
Phones exist that have pure Android, including the now mostly discontinued Nexus One and the T-Mobile G2, but almost all devices now have a custom interface and in some cases have artificial restrictions that prevent choices for owners. Samsung Fascinate owners on Verizon aren't allowed to use or install the Google search widget, and all AT&T Android phones are banned from using non-Market apps. The customization also regularly delays OS updates by several months and has fragmented the Android user base by keeping some running old versions even when the hardware is fully capable.
iPhones only have one choice for the default OS install, but the decision to deny control to carriers has in a handful of cases given more choice than Android phones. The Apple handset gives users a choice of three search engines OS-wide.