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Report: Google Tightening Android's 'Non-Fragmentation Clauses' With Carriers

Report: Google Tightening Android's 'Non-Fragmentation Clauses' With Carriers

April 4, 2011 | By Eric Caoili

Google is putting pressure on carriers and handset manufacturers to abide by "non-fragmentation clauses" for Android that will give the search giant the final say on customizations to its popular mobile operating system, according to a report from Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Until now, Android licensees could tweak the royalty-free, "open source" OS -- increasingly important for smartphone games -- to customize it with their own services, skins, and other alterations in their mobile devices.

That openness led to many companies adopting Android and helping the OS reach a leading market share of 31 percent over rivals like BlackBerry and Apple's iOS.

This approach has led to the fragmentation of Android, as there are dozens of devices with different and older software versions, each with their own set of capabilities.

While this benefits carriers and manufacturers, many game developers have had to contend with competing app stores and compatibility issues when releasing Android titles.

But in recent months, Google has sought to reign in fragmentation by forcing licensees to seek the approval of Android chief Andy Rubin before implementing any operating system tweaks or partnerships (e.g. Verizon's plans to add Microsoft's Bing search engine to its line of Android handsets).

Google has argued that these "non-fragmentation clauses" have always been a part of the Android license, but several companies claimed his policy change is new, and their dissatisfaction over the matter reportedly attracted the attention of the U.S. Justice Department. Google declined to comment on the reported complaints.

A report earlier this month said the upcoming "Honeycomb" version of Android will not be publicly distributed for the foreseeable future. "Android is an open-source project," claimed Rubin at the time. "We have not changed our strategy."

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