China’s antitrust authorities have approved Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) purchase of Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI), on the condition that the Android operating system remains open source and its code is made freely available to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Android devices had nearly 74 percent of the Chinese market in Q4, 2011, and that — together with Google’s large war chest, technical expertise and the high market barriers to entry into the mobile market — means Android is in a dominant position, China’s Commerce Department said.
“Our stance since we agreed to acquire Motorola has not changed, and we look forward to closing the deal,” Google spokesperson Niki Fenwick told LinuxInsider.
“Android is clearly a key platform for many Chinese manufacturers of devices, and the vertical integration of software and hardware between Google and Motorola appears to have spooked the Chinese,” Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC, said.
The agreement will last for five years. Google will have to file a report with China’s Commerce Department every six months. After the five years are up, the department will reassess the situation.
Google must ensure that current and future versions of the Android open software stack are available under a free and open software license consistent with current business practices, China’s Commerce Department said.
However, apps on the platform and related services can be closed source.
China requires that Google offers Android in a non-discriminatory manner to OEMs who have agreed not to differentiate the platform or create derivatives. Google also has to comply with the existing fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) rules governing Motorola Mobility.
FRAND is the touchstone of much litigation between companies in the mobile market, such as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Motorola Mobility and Samsung.
If market conditions or the state of competition in the market change, Google can apply to modify or rescind the requirements for free and open licensing and for offering the Android platform without discrimination to OEMs. Further, these two requirements will no longer apply if Google in essence doesn’t own Motorola Mobility.
“I’m not sure if Google had to take anything off the table to reach this agreement,” Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research, told LinuxInsider.
Android has always been open source, and “I don’t think there’s much danger of Google taking Android to a single hardware OEM or leveraging it in any way other than through open source and free licensing in the short term,” IDC’s Hilwa told LinuxInsider.
“You don’t compete with Apple with another fully integrated single device; you out-flank them with a diametrically opposed strategy , which is what Google succeeded in doing with Android,” Hilwa continued.
On the other hand, “think about the language and messaging Google has put around the Motorola [Mobility] acquisition,” ABI’s Morgan pointed out. “It’s a separate business unit and will be run as a separate business.”
If Google gave Motorola Mobility preferential or sole access to Android source code and ran for-fee services on the platform, it “will have hardware all the way up to the Internet, and that will be a lot of power for one company to have, seeing that Google pretty much owns the Internet and Android is strong in the mobile market,” Morgan said.
“Keeping it open should help improve the amount of features and stuff that are added,” ABI’s Morgan said. “There are Chinese versions of Android out there, and what they and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) have done is just tweak Android; the core kernel remains the same.”
Being open “does not mean being unchanged,” IDC’s Hilwa asserted. “I expect Android to evolve vigorously over the next five years.”
Article source: http://www.technewsworld.com/story/75173.html
Google’s launch today of Chrome for Android may be a move to accelerate the pace of browser updates, an analyst said.
“Google’s playing catch-up here,” said Al Hilwa of IDC. “Although both the stock Android and Chrome browsers are WebKit-derived, [the former] is fundamentally behind the times compared to what others, like Microsoft with IE9 on Metro, are doing. The stock Android browser needs much more hardware acceleration, for example, and better support for HTML5.”
Google can get those advanced features into Android users hands faster with Chrome, said Hilwa, because the new browser — currently offered as a beta — is essentially the same browser as the desktop edition that Google updates every six-to-eight weeks.
Shifting to Chrome and its faster-paced release schedule sidesteps the less-frequent system updates that Google now offers Android users to freshen the stock Android browser. Chrome on Android is an app available on the Android Market, and so uses that e-store’s built-in update mechanism.
In the months since Google last updated Android — and the Android browser — to version 4.0 last October, the company has shipped Chrome 15 and Chrome 16 to its “stable” channel of Chrome for the desktop, and many more interim security updates. If Google keeps to its typical pace, it will ship Chrome 17 within the next week or so.
Chrome also gives Google a credible rival to the third-party browsers that now crowd the Market, including those from Opera Software and Mozilla.
According to Web metrics company Net Applications, the Android stock browser accounted for 18% of all browsers run on mobile devices last month, Opera Mini, which does not run on Apple’s iOS, had a 20% share.
Version 4.0 of the Android browser, which debuted alongside Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich, in mid-October, 2011, accounted for nearly all of Google’s share.
Even though Chrome for Android requires Ice Cream Sandwich — that version of the OS powers a minute 1% of all Android devices now in use — Google has big plans for the browser.
“Right now, our focus is on making Chrome for Android Beta available to Android 4.0 phone/tablet users to gather initial feedback…. [But] our long-term plan is for Chrome to become the standard browser on Android 4.0 and above,” said a Google spokeswoman in an email reply to questions Tuesday.
IDC’s Hilwa also applauded other features of Chrome on Android, including synchronization of that browser with desktop editions running on, say, notebook and desktops. “[Synchronization] is an important feature, and this is definitely a sign of things to come on how Android owners will use multiple devices,” said Hilwa.