Part of the core of what makes Android Android has been its open-source development, creating a thriving community of hackers and tinkerers. Much of this scene is fed by the periodic release of the Android source code, letting developers adapt the software for not-yet-supported handsets. This seems so intrinsically Android that it’s almost shocking to learn that Google is not planning on releasing Honeycomb code anytime soon, fearing that unauthorized smartphone ports would create a user experience too awful to allow.
Business Week reports that Google has been telling hardware companies about its decision to keep the lid on the Honeycomb source until after the next smartphone release of Android (Ice Cream / Sandwich?). Presumably, this will be the release that integrates Honeycomb features with Gingerbread, and thereby diminishing the temptation to try porting Honeycomb directly to smartphones.
Google’s Andy Rubin said that the Honeycomb project was so laser-focused on tablets, that the company didn’t think twice about trying to also make an Android release that would play nice with smartphones. The concern it’s now showing is a bit of a double-edged sword, as it shows dedication to maintaining a singular vision of the Android experience, while also not putting much faith in Android fans to recognize when they’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Of course, you don’t need a proper source code release to try your luck getting Honeycomb on a smartphone, as we’ve seen the SDK used to create ports on phones including the Nexus One, HTC Wildfire, T-Mobile G1, Evo 4G, Desire HD, and Droid Incredible. Sure enough, none work very well, and all are more curiosities than serious projects to craft a usable smartphone-based Honeycomb installation. We’re just saying: the sky hasn’t fallen yet, Google. Maybe it could stand to give up a little control, after all.