Is Google being anal about Android OS?

Is Google becoming more Apple-like as it asks for prior approval for Android software tweaks?

It might be time to say good-bye to the days of Android as an open-source platform. After sealing Honeycomb from developers in an effort to combat subpar Google-branded products from entering the market, Google is now quietly implementing "non-fragmentation clauses" into its Android license arrangements, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

According to "a dozen executives working at key companies in the Android ecosystem," Google is demanding to have prior approval for all software tweaks, like the construction of new interfaces and the adding of services (read: the end of third-party "skins" like HTC Sense and Motorola Blur). Google is even restricting the forming of partnerships outside of the company's authority and adding the clause that if a company wants early access to Android, it will need the green light from none other than Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Android group.

That doesn't sound like "open source" to me, but it does remind me of something else. Oh that's right: Apple's business model.

This dramatic pull-back from Google will affect developers who want to include rudimentary Google software into their products, including Search and Google Maps. Right now, some of the companies affected include LG, Toshiba, and Samsung. Also getting the bum end of the stick is Facebook, which has been building an Android-powered Facebook Phone.

Even though Rubin says that these non-fragmentation clauses have always been part of the Android license, the complaints are that Google is becoming even more restrictive. Reports suggest that some companies have even vocalized their gripes to the U.S. Justice Department.

The lock-down doesn't stop there, either. According to Digitimes, Google may also be negotiating with the giant chipmaker ARM over the possibility of "implementing standardization for ARM architecture products." That means--again, like Apple--Google may gain control not only of its OS, but also the hardware powering those systems.

It's not with a consumer's liberties to dictate what a company can and cannot do with its products. This is capitalism, after all. That said, I've got a candy-themed name Google can use for Android's next iteration: Sour Apple.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)
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