Personally, I've already seen some benefits. A recent update to my Samsung Galaxy's software delivers a much cleaner, faster, more Android-like experience. Nothing like the horror show of crapware I had when I first got the device last year.
And I'm not just saying this because it's something I called for back in October, when no one was listening.
In today’s marketplace the word “Android” is becoming meaningless.
An AT&T “Android” phone is not an Android phone, but an AT&T one. A Samsung “Android” phone is not an Android phone but a Samsung one. If you get a Samsung phone from AT&T you get one thing, if you get the same phone from Verizon you get something else.
In the end, the question for Google is whether it wants to protect its brand, or let its brand be hijacked on behalf of the status quo.
About the only people who seemed to be listening to me last were were at Harvard. Now it seems someone in Mountain View was listening, too.
Those who hate open source can hope people like Florian Mueller is right and that lawsuits claiming patent or copyright violations by Google succeed in stopping both the company and the platform in its tracks.
Or they can fork it themselves.
This last is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Android is, in the end, just a Linux. Google must dance a delicate dance. If it's just giving those who help it most a head start on the market that's one thing. If it's specifying which parts must go into an Android device, and preventing companies from cutting costs while maintaining quality, that's another.
And this may be a key question Michael Dell is asking this morning. Dell has apparently been the firm most hurt by Google's new choices, according to Business Week. Dell is also the American company that has placed its corporate future most clearly in the hands of Chinese OEMs, going so far as to help the government's move in locating new factories inland, in slow-growing western China, rather than on the coast. (The east-west split is at the heart of modern Chinese politics.)
Since Android is just a Linux, Dell could take the code base it has, get 10,000 Chinese programmers into a skunk works in Chengdu or Chungqing, and come up with its own mobile Linux platform. It could deliver said platform at the lowest-possible cost, in the highest-possible quantities, and become a serious threat in cost-conscious markets like India, China and Pakistan. It could also kowtow to local political elites in ways Google never would and gain exclusive access to those markets.
If it chooses.
Will it choose?