Android’s Rubin Denies Consolidating Power Over The Platform

Android vice president of engineering Andy Rubin disputed recent reports today that Google is locking down control over the smartphone platform, and restricting access to device makers unless they get approval directly from the company. He said that Google will still allow device manufacturers customize “any range of features” for phones based on the OS.

“We don’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ solution,” he wrote in a blog post today on the Android developers website. “Our approach remains unchanged: there are no lock-downs or restrictions against customizing UIs. There are not, and never have been, any efforts to standardize the platform on any single chipset architecture.”

He said that hardware makers can still manipulate the OS in any way that they want. But if they want to run Google applications like search or maps or have the Android Market, they need to pass certain compatibility requirements.

Rubin said there was there was a great deal of misinformation in the press and that he wanted to “set the record straight.” Last week, BusinessWeek reported that companies wanting early access to the newest versions of the OS need approval of their plans directly from Rubin.

The thing is — what Rubin wrote in his post today doesn’t necessarily contradict that news story though. BusinessWeek was pointing out when OEMs get access to Android, not whether they’ll get it at all.

He also said that delays in the release of Honeycomb’s source code, the newest version of the OS specifically designed for tablets, didn’t reflect a change in strategy either.

“The Android team is still hard at work to bring all the new Honeycomb features to phones,” he wrote. “As soon as this work is completed, we’ll publish the code.”

Rubin’s statement comes at a time when Android has overtaken RIM and Apple’s iOS to become the leading platform in mobile subscriber share in the U.S. IDC also predicted that Android will grab nearly 40 percent of the world’s 450 million phone shipments.

Yet developers have struggled with building applications that work across a wide array of devices and multiple versions of the OS. Eliminating every bug on four different editions of the iPhone is very different from making sure that an app works on more than 150 different devices.