Andy Rubin says Essential’s Ambient OS will be open source, just like Android

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Playground CEO Andy Rubin, whose new company Essential unveiled a new premium Android smartphone and Amazon Echo competitor today, says his company’s Ambient OS smart home platform will be open source. That means that Rubin, who rose to fame in the tech industry for co-founding Android, essentially wants to apply the same open source philosophy that made Android the most dominant mobile operating system to the smart home.

Given how disparate the smart home landscape is right now, with myriad interoperability standards and wireless platforms trying to marry various devices together, Essential’s Ambient OS does have a massive opportunity here. However, the decision could also mean that the platform ends up as fragmented and splintered as Android is at the moment, leading some consumers to miss out on vital upgrades and advances.

Walt Mossberg pointed this out to Rubin on stage at Code Conference, noting that Google’s OS has forked into wildly divergent versions around the world, but Rubin countered, saying that variation was actually Android’s strength. “Nobody gets 100 percent upgrades, it’s impossible,” Rubin said, before suggesting that Apple’s purported 80 percent upgrade rate was actually closer to “60 to 70.”

Rubin did agree that Android’s upgrade rate was much lower, but said that his new venture’s Ambient OS had “a solution for that.” He stopped short of describing what that solution was, however, noting only that it was “more of a managed service on the back-end.” How exactly Ambient OS will stay open source while also keeping users up to date remains to be seen.

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