updated 12:45 pm EDT, Thu May 12, 2011
Skyhook suit shows early Android fragment scrap
An extensive breakdown of the newly published e-mails in the Skyhook lawsuit has revealed Google being actively aware of and trying to fight fragmentation on Android well before this year. After Motorola pulled Skyhook's location services from the Droid X at the last minute and complaining that Google was limiting its "ability to compete," Google tried to reassure Motorola that the issue was one of controlling fragmentation. A copy of the response at This is My Next showed that Google was trying to use Apple's language of a consistent platform while trying to preserve Android's openness.
"Controlling fragmentation on an open platform to ensure that Android is a success for Google, Motorola, and all ecosystem players will mean that we learn some lessons the hard way," Google said. "Having a vibrant ecosystem around an un-fragmented platform is in everyone's interest, so we all have to bear the burdens."
The conversations also revealed that Google's VP in charge of Android, Andy Rubin, was getting personally involved in controlling releases. He ordered a "stop ship" on the Droid X on May 28, 2010 until Skyhook was either made compatible or pulled. He also denied Motorola's request in June that year for a special exception and forced Samsung to both stop shipping Galaxy S phones with Skyhook as well as patch up those that had shipped to remove the code.
Whether or not Skyhook had been the victim of anti-competitive behavior from Google was murkier. While Google messages had shown it using compatibility to force companies to achieve its own ends, such as filling in its location database, circumstances also suggested Skyhook may have run more solidly afoul of limits. Google was never shown code changes Skyhook made to try to comply, and its system refused to send location data to Google. The company had been willing to take Skyhook but wanted it "fixed" to fit Google's location desires.
Regardless of the the internal politics of the Skyhook case, the dialog openly contradicted Google's public denials of Android fragmentation. At the time, it claimed fragmentation was a non-issue and, even at the CEO level, would later say it didn't exist at all. It wasn't until the Google I/O presentation this year that it acknowledged the problem and formed an anti-fragmentation coalition that promised timely and consistent OS updates instead of the sometimes stalled and limited updates defining Android today.