Google Delays Open-Source Honeycomb Code Release Indefinitely


Staff member
Jul 9, 2010

In a move that shuns smaller developers and open-source communities, Google has just announced that the release of the Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating source code to the public will be delayed 'for the foreseeable future', exerting tighter control than previously witnessed. Android has traditionally been an open-source operating system, with a source code release typically several months after its first products are released to market.

Android executives have also been telling companies that Google will likely wait the next version of the Android operating system, codename Ice Cream, is released. Google emphasizes that Android is still an open-source project, and that source code will eventually be released.

Google executive Andy Rubin has stated that Honeycomb is not ready to be used on phones. "To make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs... We have no idea if it will even work on phones." Larger manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, Motorola, and other big manufacturers already have access to Honeycomb. It is not difficult to speculate that Google has done this for anti-competitive reasons, to lock down the operating system from smaller manufacturers.

Honeycomb was released to address the high market demand for a viable tablet operating system. Google has delivered a fully functional operating system in a relatively short time-frame, adopting existing elements from previous iterations of Android. It is reasonable to assume that the operating system is not ready for applications as a phone operating system and is currently only tuned for tablet use.

This does not change the fact that the source code base is ripe for use for tablet platforms. There existing tablet devices in the market that have hardware capable of running Honeycomb. Google's statement is ignorant of these existing devices. What this move does is kick sand in the face of smaller developers, the Android aftermarket development community, as well as advocates of open-source software.

This move cannot only seen as a sole move on Google's part. Google's dedication and contribution to numerous open-source projects cannot be questioned, but the success of Android relies greatly on the partners responsible for manufacturing, distributing, and providing mobile services to the various devices. Not only does this move close down competition, this also removes unnecessary support fees otherwise incurred by having an open-source operating system. Many of the smaller manufacturers typically have little to contribute to Android in the first place, lacking the retail and brand presence of major manufacturers. This is a move that protects the interests of those partners, as well as Google Android going forward.

For end-users, this means that there will be fewer possible aftermarket modifications for existing Android 3.0 products for some time to come than typically seen on Android handsets. Specifically, this will custom community modified distributions of Android such as Cyanogenmod and MIUI. This will undoubtedly make many Android supporters, many of whom are software developers themselves, feel betrayed by this move by Google.

As Android has been developing as a brand in the hearts of many consumers, this move will do well to preserve the branding of the Honeycomb operating system. It is clear the marketing strategies employed by larger manufacturers have the majority of consumers viewing Honeycomb as a good tablet operating system, over any previous versions of Android, despite sharing many of the core functions. Over the past year, we have witnessed multiple small manufacturers have tarnished the consumer image of Android with inferior products while ignoring Google's advisory that versions of Android prior to Android 3.0 are not ready for tablets. Many of the culprits coming from smaller shanzhai manufacturers in Shenzhen China, and its subsequent rebrands by various international companies. Google probably does not want any more iPad clones running Android. This move cuts down on the possibility of clones of any Honeycomb tablets released by major manufacturers.

Android advocates know that Google is trying to transform the world of computing. Regardless of the short-term ramifications, Google would not have made this difficult decision in haste, and is working for the interest of the long-term viability the Android operating system.

Mashable reminds us that members of the open handset alliance still have access to Android 3.0 source code. The alternative is to sign some sort of free license agreement from Google.

Source: BusinessWeek via Reddit
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Senior Member
Dec 8, 2010
A bit disappointing but on the bright side, google can change their mind and release the source at some point.


Senior Member
Oct 5, 2010
They can insist it's still "open source" all they like, but actions speak louder than press releases. There's another thread on this forum about whether Android really is an open source platform at all - particularly because Google develops it in-house and then releases source code later, with no pathway for the dev community to contribute fixes and additions upstream. The entire dev community is pretty much downstream from Google. That's not really how other open source projects work. If they get too heavy-handed with the dev community, though, someone will probably just fork the latest available code into an independent and truly open source project. . .wait, no scratch that - they'd probably just get sued by Oracle and Microsoft for patent infringements. Or if Google stops releasing code I suppose the open source community would sue them for license violations.

This news, coupled with the other news that they won't allow OEMs to skin the OS in a custom UI pretty much prove this move is all about getting tighter control over Android and not that Honeycomb isn't ready for phones or other devices. Play with the Honeycomb SDK for a while and you'll no doubt notice it switches to a more familiar phone UI at 200 dpi - though the web browser (and I gather it would also affect 3rd party browsers reliant on webcore) displays much larger browser window sizes even at the "close" setting and high dpi. It's no doubt a tweak done so Honeycomb tablets will be more likely to view the desktop version of a web site than a mobile version. However that means a user with Honeycomb on their phone is also likely to get the desktop version and browser content that is rendered too small to be used on a small phone screen. But so far it's the only thing I've seen that could be an issue moving Honeycomb to phones.


Nov 22, 2010
Could it be that the wave of low cost tablets has hurt Android's reputation and that Google wants to turn that around any way they can?

I mean look at some of the pieces that are being pawned off as usable devices!

Honestly, I'm not sure I can blame them, considering a perfectly good OS looks pretty darn bad on a poorly implemented device.

-and there are quite a few really poor devices out there, all featuring Google's OS.

What would you do?


Oct 25, 2010
Google has given us a great alternative to iOS and the iPAD.
Have released the source code and welcomed developers (custom ROMs).

Try to get either one of these items from our "pals" at MS or Apple....

They will release the code for Honeycomb. They even said so in the press release.


Senior Member
Aug 15, 2010
Good, better quality control for better products.

They'll release it once the backlash comes. I think they just don't want people to screw up trying to use HC for phones devices when Ice Cream is suppose to do that. I think it would be a good move to release after Ice Cream come out so Devs can focus on a OS designed for phone and not trying to force a OS that's made for Tablets.


Jan 7, 2011
Based on this and the restrictions on custom UIs overlaying Honeycomb, my opinion is that it is fairly likely that this is a QA decision not based on third-party development but based on Google writing shoddy code in order to rush Honeycomb out. My opinion is that this isn't politically motivated but is essentially them improving the quality of that shoddy code that they released before they have other people spending time/resources writing code on top of that shoddy code. Otherwise, when they do fix it, they'll break everybodys' code and then everybody would raise hell for it. Plus, then all Honeycomb devices with custom third-party code on top of that shoddy code would take forever to be updated simply because the fixes to the shoddy code broke everybody's custom code, causing them to have to rewrite a lot of it. If my speculation is true and Google released Honeycomb source now, then we'd all be complaining in ~4-6 months from now about how manufacturers are even slower to release updates. And not only that but how the updates actually hurt quality instead of increase quality of the product.

My call on this is that this is the right decision by Google. As much as it sucks for me and I'm not enjoying it, I think it's the right decision.