Google’s Strategy on AOSP Apps – Embrace, Extend, Extinguish?

  Dec 3, 2014 4:16:41 AM

Seven years ago, in November 2007, the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) was announced with a key objective of creating an open platform ecosystem for global reach. Since then Android has steadily increased its dominance via its ever expanding ecosystem and attaining maturity through OS upgrades over the years.

In line with OS revisions, Android apps too have grown in number and features. In fact they have attained maturity levels at which OEMs now prefer default apps over their customized ones. However one deterrent to experience newest version of apps is that app upgrades are bundled with OS upgrades which in turn are controlled by OEMs & carriers.

More recently in 2013, key strategy changes were introduced and one among them was making AOSP apps available in Google Play Store (as stock apps). Off late, Google is moving several Android apps to Play Store with the objective of decoupling them from OS upgrades and release newer versions independently. End users too are a happy bunch and enjoying the latest and greatest version of stock apps on their devices without having to wait for blessings from OEMs/carriers.

All is not hunky-dory with this approach. In the hindsight doors are shut for development/customization since the source code of stock apps (the ones in Play Store) isn’t made public. Illustrated below are few examples that indicate new features available in stock apps aren’t contributed back to AOSP. As a result AOSP apps look old-fashioned. Recent entrant to this is E-mail, which has now moved to Gmail (yes, Gmail now supports Exchange accounts).

This clearly seems a step in the direction where Google is gaining more control over Android ecosystem by compelling every Android device to have Google’s Android rather than a forked one. It’s important to note here that unless a device is certified by Google, it won’t have access to play store (and hence stock apps).

What this means for Sasken and should we be concerned?

Yes, this is a definite point of concern. With more & more apps going the Play Store way (read it as closed source) opportunity to work on them (as part of upgrade, stabilization, and commercialization) is taken away. Additionally this may reduce market/end user excitement on OS upgrades unless the newer version comes with a ton of features under the hood.

Sasken has been closely watching this trend and as always has been the case, our out of box thinking has led us to move up the value chain and provide differentiated services.

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