back to article Google admits Android 'both open and closed'

Google Android boss Andy Rubin sees himself as a latter-day Gene Amdahl, insisting that anyone who questions his commitment to building an "open" mobile platform is merely spreading FUD. "Recently, there’s been a lot of misinformation in the press about Android and Google’s role in supporting the ecosystem. I’m writing in the …


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  1. Nuno

    I don't understant what the problem is

    Google only released WebM when they felt the code was good enough for public eyes, and they will do the same, as they should, for new versions of Android. They never said that Android development was going to be community driven...

    if you want, you can take Android 2.3 and fork it...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Except on their own web page?

      "Android is an open-source software stack for mobile devices, and a corresponding open-source project led by Google. We created Android in response to our own experiences launching mobile apps. We wanted to make sure that there was no central point of failure, so that no industry player can restrict or control the innovations of any other. That's why we created Android, and made its source code open."

      Aren't they effectively restricting innovation and creating a central point of failure here? So all that is a lie.

      1. Tim Parker


        "Aren't they effectively restricting innovation and creating a central point of failure here?"


        "So all that is a lie."

        It's marketing - you could argue whether there's much of a difference. Is it all a lie ? No, provably so.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Tim Parker

          I like your extensive analysis.

          Restricting innovation: Are mod ROM builders able to create improved Honeycomb ROMs? No. Check.

          Central point of failure: Already felt by people who bought tablets without Honeycomb. Check

          There's a difference between marketing and blatant lying. Google should at the very least change the text in that page.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        quid pro quo

        +++ath0 is right if it turns out that Google don't open source 3.0 within a reasonable time. The definition of "reasonable" is subjective, course.

        Is it unreasonable for Google to control when projects are open sourced if they have initiated them and contributed the vast majority of their content? They might see that as their pay back - they are in business after all.

        As for "permeable interfaces between Google and the outside community, and would be defined as open on the surface," I could live without this kind of hyperbole and verbosity; it smacks of dissembling.

        As for the Skyhook suit, pass the popcorn. It will be interesting to see how that turns out. From what is alledged, it seems that the "Don't be evil" mission statement needs to be realigned with current practice. As it were.

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Missing the point of open source?

      Isn't that the whole point of open source? peer review, a wider community of people can examine the code and ensure it is safe?

      If you start hiding it until it is deemed functionally ready then you may release code that is insecure as it hasn't been scrutinised.

    3. SuccessCase

      Re: don't understant what the problem is

      There is no problem with Google. I think the problem is only that some people find Google acolytes who are blind to the strategic play Google are making, a bit naive and mildly annoying. The simple truth is it's easy to be open source when all your revenue generation comes from a closed centralised database. Google have co-opted a worker-bee dev community into elaborating an ecosystem that supports their central money making machine (Google of course do the heavy lifting on the Core OS, so I'm not trying to take that away from them - indeed I'm not trying to take anything away from them at all, the level of Open they have is better for devs than non at all). They will never open up their central database unless forced to by the DOJ and fair enough that they shouldn't. But it then simply has to be accepted they are committed to open source strategically, only in so far as it helps them to make a profit, not to the point where they do it regardless of wether it impacts their business. e.g. not as a matter of fundamental principle. Many acolytes blinded by idealism seem to have a problem with this statement, but when you think it through, the logic is inescapable.

      None of this means Google are bad in their attitude to Open Source. They are doing what they are doing and it is what it is. It remains useful for a dev to be able to dive down into the source code.

      This lays out the argument clearly:

  2. MojoJojo

    Has any platform vendor done differently?

    The story suggests that Google's actions are somewhat scandalous.

    But apart from the pre-release hype about Android being an "Open" OS (open being a phrase the Reg itself has argued is meaningless), it's very hard to see what Google has done that is worth complaining about.

    Yes, Google are exerting control over the platform. So has every other platform vendor in existence.

    If Google were charging a license fee and never releasing the source code, would that be better?

    1. Ilgaz

      Blame PR and fans

      If Android is positioned as "the heroic saviour of masses from evil Apple", people would expect some kind of Linux/BSD while it isn't.

      Google, or any kind of company at that size isn't a "human", humans can be good, bad, hero. Companies are required to protect themselves and compete rigorously, sometimes being "evil". If a company motto is "don't be evil", it confuses people.

      Also see Motorola ads, with white dressed Apple slaves etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      The point I think....

      Was to suggest that Googles own people are claiming they are martyrs to "open source", as well the Android wikis etc all making such claims.

      I think we will have to wait and see what happens with the latest honeycomb code before we make any judgements. At the moment the concern is that Google are locking down the Android environment making it difficult to get the platform onto any device, etc. If that congtinues with only certain vendors allowed to use Honeycomb, then we will start to see the outcries. If google hadn't painted themselves into this corner by calling apple the bad guys, noone would care.

      Of course the fandroids will still bleat about the "open" or "more open than Apple" environment, in the same way fanbois bleat about stuff.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      @MojoJojo - Quite right...

      Google are doing what Apple (or more accurately NeXTSTEP) and others have done in the past - I don't consider it scandalous in the least. it's called running a corporation and that has no duty to any "community" it simply has a legal obligation to it's owners and shareholders.

      You know, I always dismissed the "Open Source is Communist" argument as wildly silly, but watching the naive responses and protestations from former advocates as Google slowly closes Android up (just as happened when OS X grew from BSD) really does make me smile.

      Android 2.3, Chromium and Darwin are Open source

      Honeycomb, Google Chrome and Mac OS X are not.

      "Open" as in platform is like "New" as in Labour - meaningless marketing fluff. The only difference here is that Google seem to be doing it in quite an underhand way, but hey, as I say, they're running a business! Mark my words, Google will lock down the apps "market" in the next year or so because they can and it's an income stream.

      In effect Google have built a business model on the back of a lot of words to foster community goodwill and now it's big enough they're happy to cut the community loose - but to think anything else would ever happen was folly.

      Live with it guys or put your morally outraged energies into forking off (as it were!). ;-)

      1. M Gale


        "Mark my words, Google will lock down the apps "market" in the next year or so because they can and it's an income stream."

        I think the lawsuit from Amazon would be an awesome beast to behold, if that were to happen and their new budding Amazon market app were to be banned. Not to mention the other alternative markets that come on the cheaper, non-google droids. I think you'd hear the words "class action" within maybe five minutes of that announcement?

        I don't think Google would be that stupid.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Google Aren't stupid...

          ... they're very clever.

          They don't seem to have been too worried by legal challenges so far.

          My guess is, that they won't close it in a way that's open to challenge. They'll use some "Intel Inside" type device - perhaps "Approved for Android" or some such drivel and use their marketing weight to deliver the result. And to follow that train of thought, others won't be "Approved for Android" unless they adhere to this nice safe walled garden approval model. Sounds familiar? ;-)

          So only Google, (because it now has it's hardware partners by the balls) can gain any market size. If you want the latest competitive release, you have to agree to ship it unchanged. Nothing gets closed as such, but the whole market gets slowly and inexorably pushed in one direction. Google get all the revenue while other players wither on the vine.

          Anti-trust, sure, but by the time any of that bites, other players have gone and regulators are left trying to roll back time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC 13:19

        I think you're confusing GNUStep with OPENSTEP. The former is an open source implementation of the OpenStep specification while the latter is the closed source implementation by NeXT.

        NeXTSTEP was never open sourced by Apple (or NeXT) in any shape or form. The Open bit was typical in that era (like Open Motif, or OpenVMS) and used to denote an open specification (almost never gratis) available for multiple implementations.

        A for Google locking down the apps market, they probably won't. What interest could they have since they hardly get a penny from it. It's well know most of the 30% profit from sales is shared among the operators, Google only receives revenue for the Checkout service, which is about 5% tops, and then probably pays 1-2% to card companies to handle it.

        What they might do however is create conditions for operators or manufacturers to defeat alternative markets, either by letting them disable them directly or by rolling the payments into the mobile bill, an advantage which would make Android market far easier to use than alternatives.

  3. Hull

    Linux on a slate?

    I was going to buy the first serviceable Android tablet with

    - a screen of 10" or more

    - Google Marketplace access

    - good stylus input. (E.g. a larger HTC Flyer)

    I'm buying an Asus Eee Slate now, and hope for good Linux drivers and software in the future.

    Does anyone here know any Linux tablet developments?

  4. Wang N Staines


    will MS & Apple release their mobile os code to the world?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Real problem

    Holding back on the honeycomb source is clearly pointless since SDK versions of Honeycomb have already been ported to real world phones, given this it's difficult to believe that the source is not yet ready for such devices.

    The big issue is making the manufacturers live up to their license obligations, many don't release kernel source or if they do it can't be compiled or is incomplete/out of date compared to the version used to build for the device. ZTE and Huawei are prime examples.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Question is

      Are either saying their system is open source? For Android that was one of the selling points.

    2. hexx


      will you keep this bullshit for yourself? are you retarded? their systems are not open source

    3. Gulfie


      SDK version of Honeycomb has no hardware support at all, so most of the ports so far can't interact with any of the device hardware. Anybody who succeeds in bridging that gap will have a very unstable platform indeed because they're integrating "sight unseen" Honeycomb with very low level device driver code written for a different version of the OS. Good luck!

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Nuno is right

    Google has cut some corners in developing 3.0 in order to get it out on time, and thus doesn't really want to open that source at this time. When everything has fallen into its place, it will come out...

    (my source is an Android dev at Google)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dev as a source

      Knowing companies like Google I'm sure devs are well aware and hold a critical decision role on their companies' strategies.

      1. fandom


        They do have a developer as CEO

      2. Jazz Kilkullen

        Ah, but

        that would presuppose that senior executives at Google HAVE an overall strategy. I mean, other than "throw it against the wall and see if it sticks".

  7. Gulfie
    Thumb Down


    Its somewhat disappointing at this stage that the article chooses to stoke the fires rather than lay out the facts. It is clear that Honeycomb will be released once it is ready - this means capable of running on phones as well as tablets. Google have made it clear why there is a delay, and that it is just that - a delay, not an intention to never release the code. The Android model has been well established, including code blackouts, its just that this one is a little longer than we'd all like.

    As for Skyhook, it would be more accurate to say that their complaint against Google is to do with the tactics it used to persuade phone manufactures to drop Skyhook's services from their phones. Nothing at all to do with the openness of Android or the delays to Honeycomb.

    All in all a fairly confused and slightly misleading appraisal of the situation. 6 out of 10, must try harder.

    1. dotdavid
      Jobs Halo


      Exactly. I see Honeycomb as more of a tablet-specific fork of Android than "the next version" - Google have said once they are finished with it they'll merge the Gingerbread and Honeycomb code bases into one (possibly called Ice Cream), along with the Google TV code which although based on Android and similarly private surprisingly enough hasn't met with half so much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

      If Google do start doing evil things, I'll be first up on the battlements crying foul with the rest of you. But I just don't see it yet.

      Halo Steve because he looks so happy, bless.

  8. KKaria

    Managing a commercial environment around opensource

    I understand both sides of the story here. Purists don't want Google to say that Android is "Open" whilst others say that although the management style of Google for the project is not "Open" the platform eventually is. The only reason people have a problem with Honeycomb is that Motorola released hardware. Had it still been in development and there are other vendors that are still developing for it, the situation would be different.

    If a developer working on an open source project does not commit his/her work to the source tree it is ok because they are still "developing" and may not have the code ready or it may break the trunk. This is how all open source development happens. The problem is that if that developer starts shipping their "version" of the project without commiting their code to the trunk, other developers and service providers shout foul. This is what has happened to Android.

    My take on this whole thing is that Google has used their dominance and size to muscle into the mobile OS arena. They want to do it via the open source method but if you check the current landscape of open source OS for mobile devices you will realise that this is the only credible attempt. Others have lagged behind or died on the way. Yes Google is right up close to the line when it comes to "Do no Evil", but in this case they have taken the decision to do this to get to market and create space for themselves.

    Lets face it, all device manufacturers now have the ability to come to market with their hardware and at least compete with Apple. Who made that possible and with who's money? You may be a version behind / ahead based on how close you are to Google, that to me is a bad business practice but other than forcing device manufacturers to follow a strict set of guidelines do you see a way to keep an open platform from fragmenting. To me it has already fragmented more than it should have.

    Also please put this in context with everything else Google has done in the past. Google have helped open source initiatives around the world in many ways. They have broken down the barriers to entry to help small teams take on incumbent companies. I will therefore give them the benefit of the doubt and wait to see if they release the source code for Honeycomb.

    If I am a device manufacturer I can still use Gingerbread to get my device to market. Honeycomb is just a major upgrade and merge project to get all Andriod development into a single tree. I can wait for it when it has stabilised.

    Flame on, its your right.

  9. stubert

    Stop whining...

    Google are holding back their bleeding edge work, so what? They do not state Android would be a community project they merely say they will open source the code so no one company can restrict the market by having absolute control.

    If you want to like Nuno stated you can fork 2.3, when 3 comes out and Google releases the source code you will be able to fork that too. You can install any OS you like onto your smartphone. You can use work Google has done for 2.3 and create your own OS if you want. You can set up a community open source project from 2.3. The same will be true when 3 comes out. What more do you want? Your own personal Google performing your bidding?

    I'm still waiting for the source code for, well, any version of Windows... Oh and Apple OS... Well forget it.

    Whine, whine, whine... Get a grip.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How does that work?

      So they say "no one company can restrict the market", yet then hold absolute power over which companies get to see the Honeycomb source code. Doesn't that make them the one company restricting the market?

      Google also managed to kill plans of using 2.3 in tablets, by publicly stating that it was not suitable for them.

      Of course people are whining, this would be like Ubuntu saying "look we have made a few deals with some netbook manufacturers, plus our new code is garbage, so we'll keep the new version under wraps and only pass it on to those manufacturers until it's no longer strategically important to us. Just don't dare thinking we're less open because of this!"

      Fortunately Ubuntu can't do it because they haven't "cleaned" the GPL out of major parts of the system and so are still bound to that.

  10. sisk Silver badge


    Open or closed it's still the best smart phone choice. The user experience is, IMHO, as good or better than with iPhone (doubly true for WinPho) and it's a hell of a lot less expensive. Besides, they'll open source Honeycomb eventually, probably around the same time that I have the extra money and the wife's blessing to actually get a tablet at the same time.

    Basically, who cares if they want to let their partners have first dibs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's very well then

      Just don't call it open source in the meantime then, call it two different names like Netscape and Mozilla did.

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