While it’s doubtful Google would outright restrict custom interfaces, the move could potentially solve much of the OS fragmentation issue that plagues Android today. Proprietary interface layers have been the primary cause of OS upgrade delays as phone makers have gone several months before updating the OS or even skipped upgrades entirely because of the extra testing and compatibility problems found in Google’s own updates. Despite Android 2.2 being available for the Nexus One a month ago, for example, no other Android phone currently uses it.
If Google puts the kibosh on custom UIs, hardware makers will have little with which to differentiate their devices. Google couldn’t care less, but the hardware makers do.
It’s a return to Dell and HP spitting out no-name clones running the same software and racing to the bottom on price. This invariably leads to razor-thin margins, cheap products and low quality as they must squeeze every penny they can. When your hardware “partners” aren’t happy it can’t be good for the platform.
Could they differentiate on hardware? Not really. Not if there’s no custom software to support it. This is where Apple gets it, and kicks ass. Add a front-facing camera, and include FaceTime for video calling. Add HD video recording, and offer simple clip editing/sharing, with more advanced iMovie editing for just five bucks.
It’s the integration of hardware and software, not one or the other, that makes a device. If the article is true, Android took yet another step to becoming the next Windows Mobile (you know, the mobile OS that ran on tens of millions of devices and nobody knew it, or cared?), not the next iOS.