Yandex suite of free Android tools sidesteps Google

The Russian search and software company announced free software that brings a Yandex-flavored experience to Android phones.

Yandex.Kit builds on Google's Android software, but replaces many Google-specific tools with Yandex alternatives for home screen, maps, e-mail, search, and more.
Yandex.Kit builds on Google's Android software, but replaces many Google-specific tools with Yandex alternatives for home screen, maps, e-mail, search, and more. Yandex

Russian search and software company Yandex is offering a collection of free tools to turn the Android open-source foundation into a usable phone operating system.

The software, called Yandex.Kit, gives a Yandex-flavored experience by linking to the company's own services -- e-mail, maps, contacts, online storage, and app store -- rather than Google's alternatives. It's also got lower-level components like a browser and home screen.

Two phone makers who've signed up for the approach, Huawei and Explay, will show the technology next week at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Yandex announced Wednesday.

There are two basic varieties of Yandex.Kit: a 15-package collection of programs for devices sold in Russia, and a narrower collection for devices used elsewhere in the world, the company said.

Android's foundation are open-source software, but much of Android's utility stems from apps that are hardwired to connect to Google cloud services. Yandex.Kit is designed to swap out that higher-level layer for phone makers that want to sidestep Google's requirements, the company said:

There isn't much use of a free operating system if you cannot offer your customers all the basic features mobile users now take for granted. The Android mobile OS is free, but all the defining features of a mobile experience -- app store, browser, email and maps -- are all available under special, case-by-case agreements...

While we primarily were working on covering all the bases for our users on Android devices, what we've got in the end was a full-fledged Android 'ecosystem'. A comprehensive, out-of-the-box solution, versatile and technologically honed enough to be offered to original device manufacturers as firmware that they can install on their devices shipped to the Russian market. This is the key to the car they were given for free and now they can drive it.

Yandex.Kit has a lot less appeal outside Russia, naturally. But within the country, Yandex has defended its turf against Google for years. Yandex.Kit is a new step in that defense by giving the company a better way to adjust to the mobile device revolution that Android itself is helping to bring about.

 

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