Google Delays Honeycomb Delivery to Open Source

Google March 24 said it was delaying its launch of Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system tablets to open source. The company wants to tweak the platform to work on other devices.

Google is roiling the open-source waters by declining to release its Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" operating system to independent developers so it can polish the code.

Google's usual modus operandi is to seed Android device makers with source code to build products, and then release the code to open source for developers to play with a few months later.

For example, Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics have already used Honeycomb for tablets. Motorola's Xoom has been on the market for a month. Samsung just showed off 9-inch and 10-inch Honeycomb slates at the CTIA Wireless show.

If Honeycomb followed the trend of Google's Android 2.x builds for smartphones, Google TV and other devices, it should have released the code around the timeframe the Xoom shipped Feb. 24.

Honeycomb, a special version of Android tailored for tablets and other devices with larger screen sizes, is a different animal. BusinessWeek reported Google will delay the release of Honeycomb to open source for several months because it requires more work before it can be ported to devices other than tablets.

Andy Rubin, Android creator and the vice-president for engineering at Google," told BusinessWeek:

"To make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs. "We didn't want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable. So we took a shortcut."

The user experience on smartphones and other devices, he added, could be poor, damaging the Android brand.

Why did Google need to rush Honeycomb to market? To get some skin in the game versus Apple's iPad. Google wanted to make sure Honeycomb was available on tablets before Apple launched its iPad 2 March 11. Apple's first iPad shipped 15 million units through 2010.

Google confirmed the move to eWEEK in an email March 24, noting that Honeycomb's widgets, multi-tasking, browsing, notifications and customization set it apart from the Android 2.x line created for smartphones and other machines.

"While we're excited to offer these new features to Android tablets, we have more work to do before we can deliver them to other device types including phones," the Google spokesperson said.

"Until then, we've decided not to release Honeycomb to open source. We're committed to providing Android as an open platform across many device types and will publish the source as soon as it's ready."