Two very different views about Android are emerging among mobile leaders, and they have big ramifications for the technology industry.
On one hand, some see Android as an open platform that lets app makers take advantage of more of a phone’s capabilities than on the iPhone. Others see it as under the thumb of Google, whose power needs to be wrested for mobile computing to reach its next phase.
The two schools of thought were on stark display Thursday night during The Information’s “Next Phase of Android” event in San Francisco.
“Google has played fairly given its position in the space, and I think the issue is getting the rest of the ecosystem to appreciate how much flexibility there is,” said Marc Leibowitz. He’s a former Googler who is now a vice president of partnerships at Dropbox, which competes head-on with Google Drive.
Kirt McMaster, who runs Cyanogen, which distributes a version of Android not controlled by Google, summed up his view this way: “Android today and iOS are essentially shells for Google and Apple services. Everybody else exists in these sandboxes with no access to the lower levels of the [operating system] kernel.”
The mobile executives did agree on several key issues facing developers, including that Google cannot afford to ignore Apple’s near-monopoly over the high end of the smartphone market. They identified the need to discover new and relevant applications as a huge unsolved problem Google hasn’t done much about. And they said that the future of Android can be seen in emerging markets like India, where Western and Eastern app and hardware makers are duking it out on an even playing field.
Here’s a transcript of the event—their views in their own words—edited for length and clarity.