Google will not release the source code for Honeycomb, the version of its Android mobile OS optimised for tablets, until it completes work to make the software better for smartphones and other devices, the company said.
"Android 3.0, Honeycomb, was designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes and improves on Android favourites... While we're excited to offer these new features to Android tablets, we have more work to do before we can deliver them to other device types including phones," Google said.
The company said it will publish the Honeycomb source code "as soon as it's ready" but did not say when that will be.
The comments reflect the fact that Google designed Honeycomb for tablets, devices with screens larger than the smartphones earlier versions of Android were designed for, and needs more time to tweak it for other devices, such as smartphones and TVs. Companies in the red-hot tablet sector had demanded a tablet version of Android, but now that it's arrived, open source advocates and smartphone lovers want Honeycomb, too. News stories and blog postings in the wake of the decision have pilloried Google for the delay.
"While large manufacturers already have access to Honeycomb, small companies and developers will have to wait for some months before getting their hands on the code. It will surely [anger the] majority of open source enthusiasts," Gaurav Shukla said on his AndroidOS.in blog, which is not affiliated with Google.
The success of Apple's iPad last year in grabbing global attention and becoming an instant best-seller sent companies scrambling to compete with rival offerings. Device makers around the world needed an OS for the job, and many talked to Google about designing a version of Android specifically for tablets, including Samsung Electronics, which put an earlier version of Android in its first Galaxy Tab it launched last year.
Google responded to the requests by designing Android 3.0 "from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets," according to the official Google Mobile Blog.
Google's success with Android has made it a big player in mobile OSes, and its work with hardware makers around the world means it has to respond to their requests, not just move in its own direction.
Indeed, market researcher Ovum predicts Android will emerge as the dominant smartphone platform in coming years, "dramatically outperforming Apple".
"The success of the Android platform is being driven by the sheer number of hardware vendors supporting it at both the high and low ends of the market," said Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum.