Google tightening control of Android, insisting licensees abide by 'non-fragmentation clauses'?

A storm seems to be brewing over the realm of Android development. Bloomberg's Businessweek spies have received word from "a dozen executives working at key companies in the Android ecosystem" that Google is actively working to gain control and final say over customizations of its popular mobile OS. That might not sound unreasonable, and indeed Google's public position on the matter is that it's seeking to stabilize the platform and ensure quality control, but it does mark a major shift from where Android started -- an open source OS that was also open to manufacturers and carriers to customize as they wish. Not so anymore, we're told, as apparently Mountain View is now demanding that content partnerships and OS tweaks get the blessing of Andy Rubin before proceeding. The alternative, of course, is to not be inside Google's warm and fuzzy early access program, but then, as evidenced by the company recently withholding the Honeycomb source code, you end up far behind those among your competitors who do dance to Google's pipe.

Things have gotten so heated, in fact, that complaints have apparently been made to the US Department of Justice. They may have something to do with allegations of Google holding back Verizon handsets with Microsoft's Bing on board, ostensibly in an effort to trip up its biggest search competitor. Another major dissatisfaction expressed by those working with Android code is that Google needs an advance preview of what is being done in order to give it the green light -- which, as noted by a pair of sources familiar with Facebook's Android customization efforts, isn't sitting well with people at all. Google and Facebook are direct competitors in the online space and it's easily apparent how much one stands to gain from knowing the other's plans early. As to the non-fragmentation clauses in licenses, Andy Rubin has pointed out those have been there from the start, but it's only now that Google is really seeking to use them to establish control. The future of Android, therefore, looks to be a little less open and a little more Googlish -- for better or worse. As Nokia's Stephen Elop puts it:

"The premise of a true open software platform may be where Android started, but it's not where Android is going."