Google's Andy Rubin, flush from the rapid growth of the company's Android platform, admitted that it is sometimes difficult to balance Android's openness with the desire by operators and handset makers to modify the platform. However, he said Android is still the best mobile platform on the market, and dismissed Microsoft's newly unveiled Windows Phone 7 operating system as an also-ran.
In an extensive interview with PC Magazine, Rubin--vice president of engineering at Google--said he is fine with the rapid pace of Android's development, and that carriers and OEMs either have learned or will learn that they should provide the latest version of Android to consumers.
"I think the OEMs seem to learn pretty quickly what sells and what doesn't sell," he said. "I'm pretty happy with the pace at which we're innovating. If we come out with a 2.3 or a 3.0, that's going to be state of the art, because it's going to have new functionality and new innovations that all the OEMs are going to want to adopt. The OEMs who don't want to do the work to adopt the latest release are just going to see the impact on what consumers want."
Those consumers are turning more and more to Android, and the platform is rapidly gaining market share in the smartphone market. According to August research from The Nielsen Company, Android is the most popular operating system among U.S. smartphone buyers who purchased a device in the past six months. The research firm said the percentage of Android smartphone buyers increased from 14 percent in January to 32 percent in August. Meanwhile, purchasers of Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry decreased from 34 percent in January to 25 percent in August. Likewise, the percentage of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone buyers decreased from 32 percent in January to 26 percent in August.
Rubin said that Android's status as an open platform means that handset makers and carriers have the ability to customize Android as they see fit. "Every phone shouldn't look like every other phone," he said. "If that was the case there would just be one SKU, right? The whole idea here is just to figure out what consumers want, build phones and tailor them to what consumers want."
Some carriers, including AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), have been criticized for blocking non-Market Android apps on their phones. Rubin brushed off the criticism. "I'm not trying to be a wireless carrier, I'm not trying to assert authority over the wireless operators, but I think it's kind of like that 1.5 and 1.6 versus 2.2 scenario," he said. "I think over time they'll learn what is good business and what is bad business. Google is a big believer in openness and openness means customization. There's a difference between customization and personalization. Personalization is something the consumer does, customization is something an OEM or operator does. And they have to find the right balance there."
As for Windows Phone 7, which Microsoft unveiled at a launch event, Rubin described the platform as unnecessary. "I think the screen shots I've seen are interesting, but look, the world doesn't need another platform," he said. "Android is free and open; I think the only reason you create another platform is for political reasons."
- see this PC Magazine article
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