The Mobile Lowdown 03-31-11: Android Clams Up; Microsoft Stats; Motorola OS

Our look at some of the big stories today in mobile: More details on the new directives on Android usage; Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) gives out some statistics on its mobile business; and is Motorola (NYSE: MMI) working on its own OS?
Android: This seems to be a development on the story from last week about Google’s decision to withhold wide release of the source code for Honeycomb, the latest Android iteration designed specifically to work on tablet devices.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which broke that story about Honeycomb, now says that it has spoken with a number of people close to the situation who have said that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is “demanding that Android licensees abide by ‘non-fragmentation clauses.'” This means that Google gets final say on how people implement (and modify) Android code for new devices and new interfaces.
Non-fragmentation clauses have always been present, but apparently they are now getting enforced more strongly than before, as Google tries to reign in the many diverse and sometimes non-compatible products associated with the platform, and potentially those that ironically get used to compete against Google in its other lines of business.
The further this story develops, the more interesting the news (or rumors, depending on how much credibility you put to unattributed reports) coming out. This newest report mentions that Facebook has been working on an Android phone — one that Google now wants the right to review; and that Verizon (pictured) has also been working on its own device, but that it wanted to include Microsoft’s rival Bing as the default search engine in it.
Given Android’s rapid rise to the top of the smartphone pile in terms of market share, you can see how this might end up in the hands of antitrust regulators, who might make Google decouple its services from the platform. Ironically, the continuing competitive push from Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) and the rest could work in Google’s favor in that case.
Microsoft: A few updated stats on how Windows Phone 7 is progressing in the market from the Microsoft Developers Blog to mark the one-year anniversary since Windows Phone 7 was first launched.
Microsoft says that its Developer Tools have been downloaded 1.5 million times, and that there are now 36,000 developers registered on the AppHub developer platform, adding a further 1,200 on average every week.
Given those numbers, though, some might think that the current number of apps in the Marketplace — 11,500 — is not particularly high. Nor is the claim that some 60 percent of registered developers have yet to publish an app.
In other stats, Microsoft notes that there are now 7,500 paid apps among the 11,500 in the store. A further 1,100 use Microsoft’s Ad Control ad network in an ad-funded model. Users are downloading an average of 12 apps per month from Marketplace.
Motorola: The company appears to have firmly put its platform future in the hands of an Android…or has it? A report in Information Week points out that the company has been hiring people away from Apple and Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) (who must love working together…) to develop its own “web-based” operating system, along the lines of what HP/Palm (NYSE: HPQ) have with their WebOS.
Motorola, says that article, did not deny the existence of the project, but also took the opportunity to reiterate its commitment to Android.
This could be an example, as the article puts it, of Motorola hedging its bets, given the boom in Android devices and increasing fragmentation in the ecosystem that comes along with that; or it could be something to safeguard Motorola in case the lawsuit brought by Oracle against Google for patent infringement gets decided in favor of the plaintiff.
But if true this could also be Motorola’s foray into an interface — like HTC’s Sense or even WebOS when envisioned as an overlay on Windows — that will set it apart from the rest of the Android crowd and let the company bring its mobile devices in line with its work in other products, around the connected home. Only time will tell.