updated 10:35 pm EST, Mon December 6, 2010
Google's Rubin touts bloatware as Android positive
Unwanted, preloaded carrier software is an advantage for Android, the company's engineering VP Andy Rubin said Monday night at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference. When asked by Walt Mossberg about Google's refusal to ban "craplets," or apps dictated by the carrier and often unremovable, Rubin considered their presence a plus. He attacked those providing a consistent, clean experience, saying Windows Phone 7 was creating a "commoditized" world with its insistence on a familiar interface where Android's variety and mandatory carrier software were pluses, even if they created inconsistency.
"That's the nature of open," Rubin said. "That's actually a feature of Android."
He argued that the popularity of Android was tacit approval of its decision to allow this software, saying that strong sales were votes for its policies. It's not certain how long this would last, as the growth rate has been slowing in the past few months.
The statements more explicitly elaborate on Rubin's earlier defense, where he argued that letting carriers compromise the phones was a positive since it preserved the openness of the platform. Critics have argued that the statement is false since many Android phones now actively prevent users from making modifications. On certain phones, Verizon blocks Google search software to favor Microsoft's Bing, while even the usually stock T-Mobile G2 auto-resets the firmware to prevent modifications and needed extensive hacking to begin supporting custom software controlled by users.
Apple has historically had tighter control over iOS and has practiced the consistency that Rubin has disliked, but it has paradoxically given more choices in some cases, such as multiple default search engines. Rubin unexpectedly called the iPhone "pretty open" since most developers can easily get their apps approved. He also dropped his criticism of consistent interfaces when referring to Apple, considering the strictly controlled interface a plus.
"I think everybody is embracing the iPhone," he said. "Certainly they make great products... robust, solid, good user experiences... a lot of consistency across applications."
Microsoft was given a brief compliment for its "1.0" release, but returned to criticism of the OS and its underlying framework. It still had some original Windows Mobile code and was thus hampered versus Android and iOS, he said, which were started from scratch. Microsoft "didn't have the Internet in mind" with WP7's roots, Rubin added. He suggested that Microsoft could fare better by returning to the same policy that was widely credited with leading Windows Mobile to fail, by letting carriers and phone builders have more control over the interface. He admitted, however, that he wasn't necessarily the best to ask for predictions of success.
"I'm not the predictor of being successful," he said.