Google Needs to Tread Softly With Android

It seems that Android is on everyone’s mind, with an endless stream of information appearing daily about the platform and Google’s (s goog) plans for it. Gizmodo interviewed Andy Rubin, lead engineer in charge of Android, and it is worth a read for the platform’s enthusiasts. Rubin answered some questions about patents, fragmentation and other hot topics in the Android world. His answers make sense but make it clear that Google may be playing with fire given the fast development rate with Android.

Rubin has an almost cavalier attitude about the HTC patent situation that has gotten a lot of attention recently. He views the licensing of Microsoft IP by HTC no different than a company licensing MP3 technology to produce an audio app using the technology. He’s right this is similar, but Microsoft has indicated it is concerned about Android, not just HTC’s implementation of it, as infringing on its IP. That implies that the platform itself is viewed by both HTC and Microsoft as needing this IP protection, and that means every company producing Android handsets may need to license the technology from Redmond. This has the potential to have a financial burden to companies producing Android handsets. Rubin’s response in the Gizmodo interview ignores HTC’s suits with Apple, and makes one wonder if HTC is on its own as far as Google is concerned.

When asked about fragmentation of the Android platform, admittedly due to the fast release rate of new versions of the OS, Ruben compared it to Windows of all things. He was asked specifially about the new Twitter app that requires Android 2.1 to run, and how that means that many existing handsets cannot run it.

I mean there are apps written for Vista, just like Photoshop CS5 does not run on Windows 3.1. I mean it’s just a fact, there’s nothing new here.

The problem is that Android is not Windows, and I am not sure that Google should want to emulate the Windows ecosystem. The timeframe between version updates of Windows is measured in years, and with Android so far this has been measured in weeks. Rubin does claim that this problem will not be as noticeable in the future, as releases for Android are going to slow down. One has to wonder how that will affect the rapid growth of the platform. Google is doing a great job with Android but had better tread softly to not rock the boat.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One