Google's Android director has confirmed that Android 2.2, the forthcoming version of the company's operating system for smartphones, tablets and netbooks, will support Adobe's Flash technology at launch.
Flash is the industry standard for multimedia on the Web. Apple has staunchly refused to support the technology for both its popular iPhone and new iPad tablet computer. Enter Google and Android, whose multiple iterations are seeing strong adoption even as they confound application developers and consumers for the fragmentation they represent.
Andy Rubin, the vice president for engineering at Google who spearheaded the creation of Android after selling the same-named company to Google in 2005, told the New York Times that Android 2.2, code-named Froyo, will fully support Flash.
This should ensure that Websites written in Flash will run smoothly on Android 2.2 devices without developers having to rewrite the Websites to accommodate Android.
Perhaps more interesting was Rubin's comment about the support. Sometimes being open "means not being militant about the things consumers are actually enjoying," he told the Times.
It's tough to accurately divine intent from this context without a full transcription of the conversation, but it seems that Rubin is taking a shot at Apple.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has shown disdain for Flash and even Adobe, which he has described as "lazy." Jobs and Co. have publicly endorsed HTML5 for Web multimedia, a position the company holds in common with Google.
Apple lit Adobe's fuse April 8 when it unveiled the new iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, which has been revised for the company's iPhone 4.0, slated to appear in June. Specifically, Apple's Clause 3.3.1 notes:
Rubin's comments to the Times stand in stark contrast to Apple's positioning not only on Flash, but with respect to the app programming industry at large.
"We use the same tools we expect our third-party developers to," Rubin told the Times. "We have an SDK we give to developers and when we write our Gmail app, we use the same SDK. A lot of guys have private APIs. We don't. That's on policy and on technology. If there's a secret API to hook into billing system we open up that billing system to third parties. If there's a secret API to allow application multitasking, we open it up. There are no secret APIs. That is important to highlight for Android sake. Open is open and we live by our own implementations."
Note Rubin specifically said Google has no private APIs, the very same application hooks Apple is outlawing on the iPhone.
What Google's Android team builds for its own use, it frees up to others. What Apple builds, it builds for itself and protects it fiercely with restrictions. And when application programmers write software for Apple's App Store, they must follow that company's regimen and processes to the letter.
In case it wasn't clear before, there is a new crusade among the mobile Web, or rather an old crusade with newer players, with Apple unapologetically waving the proprietary flag and Google taking up the open mantle.
While it will please many developers that Android 2.2 will support Flash, it could also extend the fragmentation issue plaguing the OS. Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 and 2.1 all comprise the four flavors of Android.
Adding a fifth one to the mix will widen this fragmentation, especially if Google fails to extend its Flash support from Android 2.1 to the previous iterations.