Google Seals Honeycomb from Developers: A Good Call

Smaller developers must be patient about a turn at tinkering with upcoming versions of Honeycomb

Though Google has several good reasons to play keep-away with Android 3.0, the move to restrict developers from Honeycomb's source code is seen by some as a contradiction of its open source philosophy.

Usually Google develops a new version of Android in-house, with no access for outside developers. Then, after its announcement, it becomes available as a software update, until finally developers get access to the product's source code.

That doesn't mean major manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, and Motorola haven't already had access to Honeycomb. What it does mean is that smaller developers will have to wait for an indefinite span of time to tinker with it.

This is good and bad, considering Google's rationale. The company states that Honeycomb is tailored specifically for the larger screens found on tablet computers and not for smartphones. Earlier versions of Android were explicitly crafted for smartphones but were rushed onto tablets all the same, producing embarrassingly subpar products. And which company's brand was splashed all over them? That's right: Google's.

Andy Rubin, vice president for engineering at Google and head of its Android group, told BusinessWeek that the company "made some design tradeoffs" to ship tablets quickly. "We didn't want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones... So we took a shortcut."

The problem with Google's little shortcut is . . . well, you know. The iPad. The longer Google holds Honeycomb back, the more fragmented the Android platform becomes. Meanwhile, Apple's iOS will continue to thrive and improve, building a unified army of iAddicts.

Still, in terms of product quality and an awesome user experience, it's best that Honeycomb's sockets are sealed with wax. That way when the latest Android tablets do come out -- and Honeycomb eventually arrives on smartphones -- it'll be a sophisticated experience rivaling Apple's, and not some buggy hack-job assembled in some dude's garage.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)
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