Hey, Google! Why No Multitouch for the Droid?

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History will note that Steve Jobs was right: Google can be evil. And what it's doing to Android is a case-in-point.

Only Nexus One customers are getting new multitouch features, all you Droid customers are just out of luck.

Multitouch was one of several updates to its Nexus One smartphone that Google released Wednesday. The company did not provide the update to other top-tier Android smartphones, such as the Motorola Droid.

CNET reported that Google is blaming the feature disparity on the difference in processor speed between the two handsets. Yesterday, my former CNET colleague, Molly Wood, offered wonderful details on how Android is being undercut by Google.

The Droid supposedly doesn't have the necessary horsepower for touchscreen gestures, such as pinching to zoom. But, how does that explain that the European version of the Droid already has multitouch?

As do other less-powerful handsets, such as the Palm Pre and Android-based HTC Hero.

Maybe this is all just a misunderstanding and the Droid will soon gain feature parity with the Nexus One. But, I'm not holding my breath.

It looks like Google led Motorola down a path that resulted in the Droid and then decided to take Android semi-proprietary by introducing its own handset, the Nexus One. Now Google is adding a key feature to the Nexus One that the Droid may never get (at least in the U.S.).

If that isn't evil, well, it's certainly not a way to manage a platform you expect to receive wide industry support.

Google should be uniting the Android platform, not fragmenting it.

That may not, however, be what Google sees as its best interest. Now that it has phones to sell, it may turn out that the most current Android will only be available on Google-branded devices.

Droid customers: If you feel like Google has jerked you around, you're probably right. Make a statement: Start using Bing.

This is not the first time I've wondered whether Android will survive fragmentation as each vendor tugs the open-source operating system in its own direction.

Having so many different versions (1.5-2.1) of the OS available simultaneously doesn't help the Android brand. Watch for the soon-to-be-released Motorola Devour, a throw-back to Android 1.6, to further muddy the waters.

Because Google isn't willing to exercise control over Android, customers can have no expectation that different Android phones will have the same features or even run the same applications. That Google is seemingly willing to toy with key partners, such as Motorola, only makes this worse.

Google ought to require that all new handsets must be released with the then-current version of the operating system. That alone would go a long way toward making Android a meaningful brand for consumers (and developers).

What's happening now is just the opposite.

Android means different things on different phones, and even the most current models--the Droid and Nexus One--can be significantly different. This would seem to undercut applications development and certainly makes it harder to purchase an Android handset.

Unless, of course, you purchase the Google-branded model, which presumably will now always and forever be ahead of anyone else's Android devices. So much for the supposed wonders of open source.

If this is how Android is to evolve, the iPhone has nothing to fear.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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