App Developers To Europe: Don’t Hurt Google’s Ability To “Improve” Android
They argue loosening Google control over Android would be "disastrous."
A group of roughly 140 Android developers under the coordination of an organization called the Application Developers Alliance is appealing to the European Commission not to take any action that could diminish Google’s control over the OS and contribute to Android fragmentation. The Commission is currently investigating whether Google has violated antitrust rules with its management of Android.
A letter from the developers to the head of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager, asks that no action be taken that would “stop Google from improving” Android and the Google Play ecosystem. In part it reads:
We understand the European Commission is reviewing many of Google’s business activities in the mobile industry, but we write about only one: the concern that Google may have harmed the mobile ecosystem by its efforts to harmonize and unify the Android OS and Android environment. It would be disastrous for developers (and consumers) if you stop Google from improving the Android and Google Play ecosystems, and especially if you reverse the last five years’ progress that has essentially harmonized Android across many device families.
Early Android, and its adoption by many manufacturers, helped developers by enabling us to port apps to many devices and in many countries. Google’s SDK and other resources helped developers quickly learn how to code Android apps.
But early Android was a mess. Because it was open source and many manufacturers were heavily customizing Android, our apps were breaking or not rendering correctly, and we were having to test apps on dozens of devices and rewrite them for all of the “Androids.” Developers were frustrated, clients and business colleagues were angry, and consumers didn’t understand why an app that worked on one phone didn’t work on their friends’ phones.
Fortunately Google heard this frustration and invested in efforts to harmonize Android. Many more manufacturers now use standard Android features, so we can more easily build apps that work for many different devices. Google delivers updated APIs directly to devices, so we can include new Android features in apps and know they will work — even on devices that use old versions of Android.
As you consider Google’s conduct in the mobile industry, please consider developers and consumers. It will be devastating for developers and consumers if Android no longer works smoothly across devices and device families and carriers, or if developers lose easy access to APIs that make our apps better. Please don’t reverse years of progress.
(emphasis in original)
The letter portrays Google as the savior of Android and developer livelihoods. Google is one of many corporate members of the Alliance; however, a representative of the Alliance denied that Google was behind the letter.