Google holds back Android Honeycomb; Asus releases the source code

Control-freak accusations are unfair, Google's Android boss argues

As if to back up the contention by Google's Android boss that the tablet version of Android isn't being penned in so Google can keep control, PC-maker Asus released part of the source code yesterday.

Asus posted a link on the product page for its Eee Pad Transformer tablet that lets readers download a 97MB file with the source code for v8.2.2.6 of the Android kernel.

Google released the software developers kit for Android v3 in February, but only to a few OEMs and selected other partners.

It reportedly shut down access to the SDK after a member of the XDA Developers forum installed Honeycomb on a smartphone and discovered an unannounced new app called Google Music and the unannounced cloud service Android Market that goes along with it.

Google said it wasn't holding back Honeycomb, it had just delayed release to finish adapting it to work well on smartphones, despite the more restrictive new approval process for new features or apps for the Android tablet OS that prompted complaints from developers.

Google got shelled by critics for what looks like a turn at Apple-like monomania and code control – anathema in open-source products.

Google has high hopes for Honeycomb, which finally gives it an OS that can really compete against the phone and tablet versions of iOS for both consumers and businesses. Among other additions, Honeycomb gets full-device encryption, better rendering and layout options designed to the larger screens of tablets, and the Renderscript graphics engine.

Google's Android boss, Andy Rubin argued in a blog last week that Google hasn't been trying to impose new controls over Android.

It requires Android apps to pass basic compatibility requirements, and has had a program to enforce compatibility since the early days of commercial Android development, he said.

It's the compatibility program Google is using to enhance control, according to BusinessWeek, which quotes anonymous sources saying the very lax compatibility enforcement has tightened up to the point that only Rubin can give final approval to new apps or system adaptations.

There has been no effort to standardize Android for one chipset – such as the Nexus tablet it and LG are collaborating on an dplan to release later this year.

It's purely a development issue, Rubin argued.

"We continue to be an open source platform and will continue releasing source code when it is ready," Rubin's Android blog on Honeycomb reads. "The Android team is still hard at work to bring all the new Honeycomb features to phones. As soon as this work is completed, we’ll publish the code. This temporary delay does not represent a change in strategy. We remain firmly committed to providing Android as an open source platform across many device types."

While developers have been waiting for Honeycomb, by the way, Intel has finished work on the low-power Oak Trail chips it designed for tablets as a direct competitor for chips from ARM, which owns most of the microprocessor market for tablets.

About 35 products are under development using Oak Trail and will ship at the manufacturer's discretion, Intel announced.

Given the sudden explosion in tablet sales and predictions from Gartner, among others, that tablets will sell more units than PCs this year and that Android will be a runner-up to iOS in a vastly larger tablet market by 2015, the pressure is obviously on both Google and the OEMs.

Doubts cast by GigaOm on the assumptions behind Gartner's projections only make the risk and the pressure greater for non-iPad tablet makers by pointing out there's probably a lot more room for disruptive new products than Gartner assumes, which would bump aside both Apple and Google.

Anyone who comes late to this party, the reasoning seems to be, will miss out on the fun.

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