By some reports, the Open Handset Alliance is in now shambles. Members such as HTC have gone off and added lots of their own software and customizations to their Android devices without contributing any code back to the Alliance. Motorola and Samsung have begun taking the same approach. The collaborative spirit is gone — if it ever existed at all. And, Google is proving to be a poor shepherd for the wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing that make up the telecoms and the handset makers in the Alliance.
As a result, we now have a situation where the U.S. telecoms are reconsolidating their power and putting customers at a disadvantage. And, their empowering factor is Android. The carriers and handset makers can do anything they want with it. Unfortunately, that now includes loading lots of their own crapware onto these Android devices, using marketing schemes that confuse buyers (see the Samsung Galaxy S), and nickle-and-diming customers with added fees to run certain apps such as tethering, GPS navigation, and mobile video.
Just as Google is overwhelming the iPhone with over 20 Android handsets to Apple’s one device, so the army of Android phones that can be carrier-modified is overwhelming the one Apple phone on a single carrier that allows it to stand apart and not play the old carrier-dominated game that resulted in strong handsets weakened by the design, software, and pricing ploys of the telecoms.
Despite the ugly truth that Android is enabling the U.S. wireless carriers to exert too much control over the devices and keep the U.S. mobile market in a balkanized state of affairs, Android remains the antithesis of the closed Apple ecosystem that drives the iPhone and so it’s still very attractive to a lot of technologists and business professionals.
But, the consequence of not putting any walls around your product is that both the good guys and the bad guys can do anything they want with it. And for Android, that means that it’s being manipulated, modified, and maimed by companies that care more about preserving their old business models than empowering people with the next great wave of computing devices.