What Is The One True Android & How “Open” Is It?

Ironically on iPhone 5 day, Google finds itself about to be embroiled in a fresh debate over how much it controls “open” Android as well as what Android actually is. It’s well past time for “Android” to mean the mobile operating system that Google largely controls while some other name is found for the entirely separate open source mobile OS project that Google supports.

Android’s “Open” Origins

When the Android mobile OS project launched at the end of 2007, the idea was that Google wasn’t pushing it just for its own purposes. That’s part of the reason why Android was made, in my opinion, open source, free for anyone to use.

Companies that want to challenge incumbents often reach for the “open” title to sound better. Microsoft and Yahoo did it with Google over book search with the Open Content Alliance. Making Android “open” gave Google a similar generous sounding angle.

Another “open” angle was rounding up so many other companies to be part of the Open Handset Alliance that was announced along with Android. If you’re going to take on Apple (which Google was doing at the time), it’s nice to have some company. And there was plenty of company, such as handset makers feeling squeezed out of the phone market by Apple.

It wasn’t all PR, of course. There are very good people at Google who honestly do believe in open source projects and work hard at them. Having an alliance of companies involved in a mobile OS project also makes good sense.

Chilling Effects

A funny thing happened to the openness of Android as years have passed. It started to feel less open.

I’d say the first major chilling effect is what’s still going through the court system, the idea that Google worked to prevent handset makers from using Skyhook’s location database in preference to its own, with “compatibility” one of the issues.

It’s hard not to feel for Skyhook describing its situation during a panel discussion held yesterday. The panel was staged by Microsoft-backed, anti-Google group FairSearch. I have serious issues with the false statement the Microsoft speaker made (and recanted when challenged) about Google search being required on Android phones.

But the Skyhook situation has always seemed a serious concern worth more investigation. You can watch yourself at about 15 minutes in:

Also see our other article, Acer, Skyhook And Google’s Android Self-Interest, more more about the Skyhook case.

The second major chilling effect came this week. Acer was going to announce it was working with Alibaba to produce a phone using Alibaba’s Aliyun operating system. Then the press event was abruptly canceled.

Why? Acer is part of the Open Handset Alliance, and in short, it should only be working on “real” Android rather than “fake” Android. If it wanted to go the fake route, it would have to leave the OHA and give up benefits that come with that, including close ties with Google.

Our separate story, Google: Acer Can’t Work On “Non-Compatible Android” & Be Part Of Open Handset Alliance, explains more about this.

“Fake” Android

Google doesn’t use the terms “real” and “fake” to describe the two major branches of Android. Instead, Google talks about Android interchangeably to mean either of them or both of them combined. That needs to stop. At the same time, the whole idea that Android is “open” for anyone to use should also go away.

Let’s talk about fake Android first. That’s my term for the Android Open Source Project, or AOSP for short. This is where anyone can get versions of Android source code to use as they like, free of charge. This is how Amazon gets the code that is used to make the Kindle Fire. It’s where Barnes & Noble gets code to make the Nook. It’s where Alibaba seems to have drawn some of the code for its Aliyun OS.

Google has been more than happy to consider anything using AOSP code to be Android, when it has suited the company, even if that code has been “forked” or changed to make Android-based devices that don’t include Google applications or services.

For example, here’s Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt talking quite happily earlier this year at the CES conference about all the Android products out there that Google doesn’t know about:

YouTube Preview Image

Here’s another example. In that first video above at the FairSearch event, you’ll hear Google spokesperson Adam Kovacevich saying how the Kindle Fire is an example of an Android device that doesn’t use Google search, at about 40 minutes in.

See? Google can easily point to Android devices that it doesn’t control, doesn’t influence, that it might even be excluded from a sign of the success of the open source project. That’s true.

But what’s not true is that these are “real” Android devices. After all, if they were real Android, they could use the Android logo. They can’t.

“Real” Android

What are “real” Android devices. These are what Google would call “Android compatible” devices. These are Android devices that have passed a technical test, one Google hopes allows those who buy the devices to be assured that Android apps will run correctly.

Passing the test allows the device maker to ask permission for two key things: the use of the the Android trademark and access to the Google Play app and content store. Android’s FAQ page about compatibility is a fascinating document that explains more about this.

You don’t just get to have these two things. Compatibility is a prerequisite for seeking further permission, permission which is processed as best I can tell by Google itself.

This all leads back to the idea that Android really isn’t open. If it’s up to Google, ultimately, to decide which products are Android-logo worthy, which products can have access to the app and content store, that’s not an open process.

The change earlier this year of the Android Market to Google Play further underscores how closed things are. Users of today’s smartphones expect them to come with an app store. Android having its own Android Market made sense in the “open” Android world. It was the app store for Android users.

When Android Market changed to Google Play, suddenly, the entire “real” Android ecosystem was co-opted into using Google’s brand. What was a market for Android turned into a content play for Google.

Fake Android Needs A New Name: Androidium?

To recap, we’ve got two major types of Android devices out there, “Android compatible” as Google would say or “real Android” as I would say. Everything else is “fake” Android, as I’d put it. That’s a lot easier to understand than terms like:

  • ASOP Android
  • Forked Android
  • Non-Compatible Android

The last makes me laugh. It’s possible to have an Android device that might run Android apps better than “compatible” devices yet still be deemed “non-compatible” simply because the maker didn’t use the test.

Meanwhile, you have this crazy situation where both the mainstream press and tech blogs will write things like the Kindle Fire and the Nook are Android when they’re not, in that they only run apps you’ve purchased through their own app stores, not apps you may have on your “real” Android phone.

It’s time for Google to give the Android Open Source Project a new name, I’d say, and end this confusion.

One model here might be a similar but different sounding name. Google uses the Chromium name for its open source browser project. That’s separate and distinct from the Google Chrome browser that Google itself controls.

Why not Androidium for the mobile OS open source project? Hey, if you hate that name, come up with something else. But something else is needed, so that when Google, Microsoft or anyone says “Android,” we know exactly what it means — real Android. Right now, Android being used for either halves of the Android family or them both combined is generating confusion.

Google: Accept Ownership Of Real Android

As for real Android, it should keep that name but importantly see a shift where Google finally admits what everyone knows. Android is Google mobile operating system, not some open source project that anyone can do anything with.

You simply can’t say things are open when, as I explained, ultimately Google decides if you have access to the Google Play marketplace. Nor is it somehow not Google’s OS when that marketplace carries Google’s brand.

To be fair, yes, even real Android devices aren’t required to push all things Google. No, Android devices do not have to have Google search as the default, as Google stated and as Microsoft ultimately admitted, yesterday.

Certainly Android devices differ greatly from each other, both in hardware and in how they operate. They vary in ways that Apple’s range of iPhones never do, which is a sign that Google isn’t exercising uber-control.

But ultimately, Google does have so much control and influence over Android that it should acknowledge that ownership. It should also embrace the idea that Android — as opposed to Androidium — isn’t open. Nor is that bad.

Closed Isn’t Bad

Google’s been fighting an “open” versus “closed” battle against Apple for some time, hoping to score points with the open argument. But lately, the “openness” of Android keeps getting called into question, as if Google is doing something wrong.

Apple has far more leeway to decide what it wants to do in iOS than Google can do with Android because Apple hasn’t gone around trumpeting that iOS is somehow open.

Certainly Apple comes under fire if it doesn’t allow certain apps to work. But some commentary of Apple’s containment of Google in iOS 6 has been almost gleeful, that I’ve read. I’ve seen little criticism that I should be able to share something to Google+ just as easily as I can to Facebook on my Apple device, if I want. I still cannot use Google Voice on my iPhone as well as I can on my Galaxy Nexus, and I don’t think it’s because Google doesn’t want to make that possible.

If Google were to try and make sharing to Twitter or Facebook difficult on Android, for business reasons just like Apple does things, it would face far more criticism because of Google’s whole “open” stance. I say leave the “open” to Androidium and let Android be closed — or at least acknowledge it as clopen — and Google might find itself looking less hypocritical.

Don’t Try Playing It Both Ways

That leads to what’s sparked all this, the apparent pressure by Google to get Acer to abandon working with Alibaba on a rival OS. Google has no problem if Acer wants to build an iOS device (if it were allowed to). No problem with it building a Windows Phone. No problem, according to Google’s statement, with any OHA partner working on “competing ecosystems.”

But Google does have a problem if that competing ecosystem emerges from the Android open source project? Because there’s “one Android platform,” as it blogged today? Because work on the fake Android ecosystems might lead to “incompatibilities?”

Are you kidding me? Look at the chart to the right, which comes from Google’s own stats. It shows that the majority of Android devices out there are still running the “Gingerbread” Android 2.3 version, 10 months after Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” was released as a replacement.

Only 22% of the devices out there are running Android 4.0. Only 1.2% are running the very latest Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” version. Android updates have been a mess for going on two years, yet Android has survived that huge inconsistency.

Google wants to crack down on Acer for working on an Android spinoff, in the name of consistency, while the promise of faster updates that many of the OHA members made last year seems forgotten?

Google can’t have it both ways, and the more it tries, the worse things look. Google should embrace Android as its own, controlled operating system and rebrand AOSP “fake” Android as Androidium or some other name, the open project that it really isn’t trying to run.

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://twitter.com/PXLated PXLated

    Good article Danny – Google’s been playing fast and loose with android, bout time the chickens came home to roost

  • http://twitter.com/Twitteninja ZZ

    “It shows that the majority of Android devices out there are still running the “Gingerbread” Android 2.3 version, 10 months after Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” was released as a replacement.”

    Google are still able to provide developers compatibility libraries which scale multiple versions and allow newer apis to be used on older handsets. This becomes less and less realistic the more “strains” of unofficial Android exist, so they do have a point.

  • http://twitter.com/Fourthletter58 Fourthletter58

    This whole article is readly just muddying the water – I have installed Android X86 based on AOSP on my EeePC 701 – IT has full Google Play access that seems to prove that most of your fake Android nonsense is well…nonsense.

  • Ittiam

    Danny,

    The sensible and really thought through article I have read on this topic. Have been reading about this on many many sites, and almost all are close to BS.

    Your suggestion is spot on, about splitting Android. But I am not sure whether folks at FTC and other regulatory bodies will understand this and may still unfairly blame Google.

    Also, I have been wondering if Google has lost control of Android… Good to know that its not and on the contrary has solid control over it.

    Another aspect is how important ‘content’ is important for Google to exert control over Android and no wonder only Amazon (the content king) is successfully able to fork Android

    Lastly, I think Android version fragmentation, that you discussed at the end, is related to this topic. But thats ok.

    Again, thanks for the insightful article…

  • opga

    I think there’s one thing you missed that muddies the water further.

    Amazon’s appstore works on non-amazon devices. I have it installed alongside the Play Store on my Samsung phone. Amazon’s own app submission into their store tests and requires compatibility with some non-Amazon devices. You CAN sideload app .apks from non-amazon sources onto Kindle Fire without any changes and they will work. Most apps in Amazon’s appstore are exactly the same as their Play Store counterparts without any code changes. Kindle Fire is really just a UI and skin without major changes in the core OS. So on a purely technical level, it really is compatible with “real Android”.

  • http://www.jeffkibuule.com Jeff Kibuule

    Google really screwed this up when they dropped the “with Google” brand on Android devices which I was never really sure what that meant (I guess it’s morphed into the Nexus brand now).

    The other thing is that Google has abused the word open so much, it’s meaningless now (just like beta). They really do need to explain themselves.

  • mrsbelpit

    I couldn’t agree more! Great article, great solution ideas. And to your last point, it’s kind of funny how fragmentation is now fragmented as it relates to Android. Sigh.

  • atatata

    But Google does have a problem if that competing ecosystem emerges from the Android open source project?

    Why Google has a problem with it? Just look how many “ecosystems” emerged from Unix.
    FreeBSD, Linux, Solaris (dead by now but it was very important in its time), HP Unix, SCO. Out of BSD family: FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD. Out of Linux family: RedHat, Mandriva, Ubuntu etc. It was very beneficial for industry that there is no single control point and totally separate “ecosystems” can be created to accommodate needs of different communities. Darwin/BSD significantly contributed to Mac OS X.
    I do not see why it must be different in the mobile world. There are different technological, commercial needs and different vendors, mobile operators, producers of cells phones and other devices needs very different versions of Android. One control point will not benefit anybody. So it must split.

  • JohnDoey

    The name of fake Android is “real Android.” It’s Google’s version of Android that is the faker.

  • http://twitter.com/kevinmarks Kevin Marks

    Eric Schmidt explicitly discussed the ‘with google’ strategy at Dreamforce last year: http://youtu.be/JDl5hb0XbfY?t=27m I wrote on this: http://epeus.blogspot.com/2011/09/with-amazon-replacing-with-google-on.html

  • http://twitter.com/kleptco Karl Klept

    Not sure how you can look at what Google has done with Android regarding Amazon and suggest that Google Android is anything less than really friggin open.

  • http://profiles.google.com/barun.saha04 Barun Saha

    I like the idea that either Google should take full ownership, or make it really open.

  • JMcGee

    After reading your article, I fully agree that the Android *logo* is not open. Damn you, Google!

  • Marios Andreopoulos

    Open source is a well defined term and Android fulfills every requisite of open source’s definition.

    So, without a doubt, Android is open. This is what most people without a technical background miss; “open” isn’t up for discussion. You can learn more about open source here: http://opensource.org/

    Android as a trademark isn’t open and this goes for every open source project.
    Android as a platform isn’t completely open and this is understandable.

    So in short: Android is completely open and you can do whatever you want with it. If though you want to take advantage of Google’s trademarks and the money they throw in their marketing campaigns, you have to follow their standards.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Because, Karl, Google doesn’t consider Amazon to be Android. If it did, then someone like Acer could make Amazon tablets. But Acer cannot, not if it wants to be part of OHA working on what Google considers to be “the one Android” platform which comes with a variety of rules. Rules, by their very nature, mean that “the one Android” isn’t open.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Which Android fulfills every requisite of being open. The “one Android platform” that Google promotes and enlists OHA members to be part of? Or the “other Android” that comes off the open source project. Or are they both open?

  • http://twitter.com/kleptco Karl Klept

    Perhaps Google should have innovated with the first open source license that has no license, though legal innovations seem to be more of an Apple thing.

  • Jason Harrop

    Undroid, or Droi-dish?

  • zato

    “I say leave the “open” to Androidium and let Android be closed — or at least acknowledge it as clopen — and Google might find itself looking less hypocritical.”

    As a matter of national pride, sooner or later there will be a Chinese or Asian smartphone OS. Google can’t stop it. That will mean many fewer Android activations, which will mean fewer Android Developers and apps.
    Also, Google’s present Android business model is making a few asian companies very rich while doing very little for Google, and even hurting America.

  • Gladys

    Can you comment on how this might affect the anti-trust agreements that Google was asked to adhere to by China after purchasing Motorola? I think Google was asked to to keep Android “open” for the next five years. http://goo.gl/hoQy3. For the record, I think your argument seems reasonable.

  • john

    I downloaded, compiled, and installed AOSP. Then I installed the Google Apps. At that point did fake become real? Am I an alchemist?

    Both Amazon’s Android and Google’s Android are real Android. The only difference is the services running on top of Android. Software compiled for one will run on the other. Amazon’s version is not a fork, it is not something different, it is the same thing. Amazon’s App store can be installed on Android and Google’s Play Store can be installed on a Kindle Fire (albeit with a little effort). The point being that there is technically no difference between the two. To call one real and one fake is an artificial distinction. One is Android and one is Android with Google.

  • Rui Araújo

    AOSP is open with a very free license, the Apache one. Any can take that code and build on it.

    Acer sign a deal to commit themselves to the Android platform and to help prevent its fragmentation, which it’s easy to happen with such an open license, and pretended that this “new” OS had nothing to do with Android.
    Also their official app store include most of Google apps and a lot of pirated games.

    Android has two parts, if you want the proprietary Google Apps you have to obey their rules, you can’t eat the cake both ways which Acer tried to do.

  • praxis22

    When last I read the “what is Android” paper it described it as an extensible platform, (you don’t need a radio, nexus 7, for instance) you can basically chop and change as you see fit, which Barnes & Noble, Amazon & Muii do for instance. Just because it’s not “stock” android , doesn’t mean it’s not android. What do you want to free? You don’t like it, fork.

  • praxis22

    Exactly, side loading is how I got the Amazon store and flash onto my nexus 7 and flipoard onto my old Galaxy S running gingerbread. Not to mention all the Chinese knock off’s that run some form of android. Hell the best, (fastest, best specced) android phone at present is Chinese, comes out in a month. I can appreciate that fragmentation can be an issue for app developers, just as apple’s new iPhone 5 will have borders around older apps, but apart from being ugly I don’t see why that’s a user problem. You don’t like I buy something else. What amazes me is that people like Sony sell new phones with oil version of android. Gingerbread? Now? What’s up with that? (The Experia S)

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    You should probably read the Google blog post mentioned, because apparently the one Android platform doesn’t let you do these things and still be called Android.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    I like it :)

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    You became fake until you ran the compliance test and then further, gained the right to use the Android logo.

    It’s not an artificial distinction. It’s the very one Google is using to say that Acer can’t work on “real” Android if it works on “fake” Android.

  • praxis22

    The same is true of every vacuum cleaner not made by hoover, but they still clean your floor & curtains, etc. When is a spade not a spade? I don’t see how this hurts anyone, sure, from a marketing perspective you may have a point. But if you go into a shop and ask for a hoover, they’ll show you a dyson just as readily. Just as if you go into a phone shop and ask for “Android” you won’t be short of choices.

  • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

    Pandroid? As in, it’s a part of the larger Android’ish world.

    Tandroid? As in, it’s tangential to the “one true” Android ecosystem.

    Flandroid? As in, an annoying neighbor to the okely dokely.

  • Kean Loong Mak

    You are majorly confusing the issue of open-source versus what you think of as open-ness. Open Source allows the source to be used by anyone, modified by anyone for their own purpose as long as you release the code to be shared – of course, plus or minus some regulations per the various different open source licenses. It doesn’t make it free completely – but most of the time it is.

    Google has done exactly that – provided the codebase to anyone who wants to use it for their own purpose. But the key point is modification. Once you have modified the base code for your purpose, can you still call it the same base code? Take BSD for example – there’s freeBSD and OpenBSD. Both are open, yet different, yet similar – they took the same base code and then modified it. But by modifying it, they could no longer call their code pure BSD – thus the different names.

    The same rule applies – Amazon took and modified Android for their own use. Google didn’t stop them – but Amazon cannot now turn around and tell users that they are using pure Android, because it isn’t. Thus, they can’t for example tell users to go back to Google for support – because the code base has changed.

    For Acer’s case, to use a modified version of Android now as the codebase, and still want to have the glory, if you will, of still being part of the main Android base – it’s called trying to have the best of both worlds. There are rules within each open source project – say Fedora or FreeBSD – that are different from other projects, and if the new project you sign up for goes against the nature of the open source project – for example a Fedora company now decides to build proprietary stuff into Fedora and still market it as Fedora instead of Fedora supported – then Fedora of course should come down to say, please stop this or don’t call yourself a Fedora provision company.

    You’ve missed the point.

  • Jordan Nieto

    This article is utter garbage, meaningless drivel from a second hand Mike Elgan.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    The point is that Google sometimes calls the open source project, and anything that comes out of it, “Android.” It even did that this week with the Kindle Fire as proof how “open” Android is. But in the same week, it also pointed to the “main” Android base that OHA members pledge to work on as being “Android” as if anything from the open source project isn’t real Android. And that seems to be an absolutely essential point that you’ve missed.

  • http://www.seven-sigma.com/ Jeff Dickey

    Pseudroid. Because its sue or be pseud.

  • http://www.michaelmerritt.org/ Michael Merritt

    I don’t have a problem with Google wanting to protect is trademarks and brand. They don’t want anyone calling a version (or reskinning) of the OS “Android” and then having to take questions they can’t answer when that new version breaks.

    But you’re right that they shouldn’t call something Android when it suits them for PR purposes, but not at other times. Rebrand the core OS, make it clear that non-tested uses of the OS are not Android brand, and stick to it.

  • http://twitter.com/j1d10t j1d10t

    Great article! But Google shouldn’t really even be brought up when it comes to so many devices still running Gingerbread, or even FroYo – device manufacturers and cell carriers are the reason for this. Device manufacturers are first applying a “skin” to a version of Android, and then the cell provider has to push it out to users… And most manufacturers stop providing updated versions of Android to a device after it’s been out 9-12 months, if we’re lucky that they take it that far, and don’t focus on just their newest batch of flagship phones.

  • http://twitter.com/iconoclastd Digital Iconoclast

    great, clear, analysis, Danny!

  • http://twitter.com/nmphotog Adron Gardner

    Danny’s on to something and it’s not much different than a lot of projects already out there. Darwin and OS X (or iOS) are similar in a narrow analogy. Darwin is free and open to download and use. OS X is closed and completely controlled by Apple.

    I think Google has more to benefit from simply controlling more of the “real” Android as a brand and an actual product than running a ruse nobody actually believes for esoteric PR gains.

  • Herding_sheep

    Abusing the word “open” is an understatement. They’ve really stripped meaning from the word, and redefined it to benefit Android from iOS, no matter how dishonest it is. And that’s really a shame, because truly open source projects have made substantial impacts on the industry. One of them being Webkit, ironically an Apple open source project. But you don’t see Apple touting that as some marketing gimmick to imply righteousness or freedom. Apple never even mentions Webkit in the mainstream.

    I’ve always said Android was UNMODERATED, and that’s the only true effect consumers feel from it. But that has nothing to do with freely distributed source code, and is completely irrelevant to “open.” It simply means Google doesn’t screen apps into its store, which can be a double edged sword for average consumers.

    Google needs to embrace the fact that Android is controlled by Google behind the scenes, and quit living this false reality. And also quit using it as propaganda and marketing, having no respect to the real open source community. They also need to make all their Google die hards understand that closed is not a bad thing, it’s a necessary aspect of maintaining control over your platform.

  • Kizedek

    Well, no, apparently Acer can’t just do whatever they want. They don’t expect Google’s help. They just expect Google to let them make both Android and Aliyun phones.

    But, apparently, Google is threatening to kick Acer out of the OHA if they go ahead and make phones running on Aliyun. That’s the kicker! Google is pulling an MS here (telling its OEMs it can’t make Linux computers or MS will penalize them).

    Oh, Google is putting on the pressure on providers to tamp down fragmentation? About time — why not go to bat for the consumer from the get go, like Apple, and insist that upgrades are something that Google is going to handle? Oh, yeah, because Google’s customer isn’t the consumer, it’s the advertiser.

    Instead, Google trumpeted its support of Internet Neutrality, then promptly turned around and got into bed with the worst abusers of internet neutrality.

    So, yeah, there are numerous ways Google has shown itself to be closed and evil.

  • Kizedek

    Well, anyone who supported Google when Oracle sued them should have a problem with Google wanting to protect its trademarks and brands. Plus, Google is about the least respectful of other’s IP, copyrights or privacy as anyone out there. So, yeah, I have a problem with it.

  • Louieboy242000

    I like androidnium better if the will call ot for open source. Ive been always telling this with my friends google wants to be like apple it is a start. Their strategy is to create a standard you can only skin it and add bloatwares into it but the model is actually closed. The open mantra is a marketing ploy thinking that the OS are open. Double blading it which offer the open source but to benefit you should join the android compatible alliance. That is the good thing youbstill have choice though you are not in good position unless you join the alliance securing an exclusivity with android and other oem. So technically if consumer realized this then windows will have an opportunity unless they will let other manufacturer to be less controlled that they can add features aside from the stock windows phone to differentiate with others.

  • Kizedek

    “This is attempt to undo the Fragmentation”

    Well, really, it’s a thinly veiled attempt to be able to put Google ads everywhere and track everyone’s eyeballs and browser habits. But the Chinese govt has a problem with that, so good for China!

    If Google’s motivation was really to “make insanely great products for the consumer” then it would show. But, alas, Google’s customer isn’t the consumer, it’s the advertiser.

    But, hey, keep defending Google. All that loyalty and sheer optimism out there from Google fans is super endearing and admirable. At least that makes the world a better place.

  • http://www.swift2.blogspot.com Swift2

    I think that’s the point. Google has to fork from Android to whatever it will develop to. Proprietary code.

  • Kizedek

    No, he hasn’t missed the point.

    Google fans (and MS fans) constantly talk about Google (and MS) as “open”, vs. the “closed” model of Apple. This has little to do with OpenSource Licenses as you suggest. But it is a very real phenomenon. Android (and Google) and Windows (and MS) are considered “open” while Apple is almost synonymous with “closed” in many peoples’ minds. And the word “open” is used in a variety of ways.

    Now, one way it is popularly used is to mean “modular” vs. “integrated”. Google and MS take the “modular” approach: their OS software is one module, while the OEM’s provide hardware as another module (so far). Apple makes the whole widget.

    What’s interesting (and here’s the point), both Google and MS go on and on about being “Open” in this way. And their fans certainly do, too. It’s a major marketing point for them. So, no, Danny hasn’t confused the issue. Google and MS have done it for themselves. They purposely perpetuate this myth.

    In fact, there are no end of articles every month touting how “open” (modular) ALWAYS wins (in the end), and how it is so superior to “closed” (integrated).

    The kicker of course, is that MS (and now Google following in its footsteps) exert monopolistic control over their OEMs in an attempt to keep them in the fold. This belies yet another sense in which the word “Open” is touted in relation to both Google and MS: a sense that Android fans like to hold dear — that Google is all inclusive and lovey-dovey with everyone and promoting one big happy family in the world. Google is supposed to let you “do what you want with its products” because is so “open”, while bad Apple is “all about control” and is therefore “closed”. We are seeing the truth here with Acer, however — if you want to be part of the “Open”Handset Alliance, drop Aliyun, because we really aren’t as all-inclusive and indifferent as everyone likes to make out, we are like a jealous lover. In reality, Google is really continuing its quest to be big brother.

    Again, so much for “Open” in any natural connotation of the word. All these senses of the word “open”, in any way that Google or its fans attempt to use it in relation to Android or Google, are looking extremely pie-eyed and mythical at best and disingenuous and dishonest spin for the most part.

    Yes, here we are: both MS and Google are finding they have to exert more control over their platforms, and they have both made major (and perhaps foolish) acquisitions in an effort to have some hardware capability of their own. They both recognize something good in Apple’s integrated model and in the customer satisfaction ratings that Apple enjoys. Furthermore, they see the profits that Apple is reaping with its complete, integrated products; and they want some of the action! I mean, imagine, that: hardware is commanding more profit than software which, per unit, has NO cost — it only requires MS to send a bunch of serial numbers to its OEMs! Unthinkable. (But good luck with that, though, because Apple has worked hard and laid the foundation over a good ten years. You might even say, “software guys aren’t just going to walk into the hardware business”.)

    So, Google and MS are both trying to pull an Apple…. and yet, they and their communities continue to beat Apple over the head with the “Open” stick in the media. Go figure.

  • stevos

    “Well, really, it’s a thinly veiled attempt to be able to put Google ads everywhere and track everyone’s eyeballs and browser habits. But the Chinese govt has a problem with that, so good for China!”

    I’m sure you’re aware that the main problem that the Chinese Government has with that is that they want that (and much more – personal, financial, and political data) so they can keep their population under surveillance and control.

    Think about what does Google want the data for, and what does the Chinese Government want the data for? Supporting the Chinese government on issues of personal privacy and data security is the height of ridiculousness.

    Can you think of any reason that an Open Handset Alliance member, who has agreed to promote Android in exchange for development assistance, marketing and branding assistance, and use of trademarks and software, should be able to simultaneously promote an OS based on Android, but not fully compatible (thereby promoting fragmentation, and damaging the platform), and additionally provide mainly pirated, stolen, and cracked apps through their appstore ? http://apps.aliyun.com/search.htm?keyWord=google+maps

    I’m pretty sure if you were assisting a company with products and services, and you discovered that they were effectively aiding in the theft of your other software and destroying your future market for it, you’d make it clear that if they continued to steal and promote theft then they can’t get any more help from you. This would be considered a mild response by most people – these days I’d expect a dozen lawsuits.

    It’s clear that using Android for other stuff is cool (see Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook etc), but that members of the OHA must abide by its terms.

    Promoting massive scale piracy whilst being a partner of the company you are taking the software from, is definitely not cool.

  • http://www.michaelmerritt.org/ Michael Merritt

    Not saying they’re consistent. Google’s left hand rarely seems to know how to talk to its right hand. This is how we get the Adsense division telling us that above-the-fold is prime real estate for ads, while Matt Cutts is telling us too many ads above the fold will get you a penalty.

  • Kizedek

    My reference to the Chinese govt was made in irony — like Google is some kind of competition to them. I don’t want either the Chinese govt OR Google spying on me. Perhaps Google is treated with far less scrutiny than it deserves.

    As far as “any reason that an Open Handset Alliance member, who has agreed to promote Android in exchange for development assistance…”

    Why, yes. The fact that Google goes on about how “open” and benign it is. Moreover, it seems to hardly care about the usability and state of its products, nor the implications of starting things and not finishing them, nor all this “fragmentation” malarky (that wasn’t even supposed to exist until this last month when Google fanboys are finally saying the “f”-word themselves). Google just doesn’t care…unless someone is starting to act in competition. Someone who apparently thinks they can do a little better with a tailored skin and set of services for their market.

    The other reason this is all so hilarious, of course, is that this is exactly how Google treated Sun’s/Oracle’s Java. But no-one worries about the “fragmentation” there.

  • stevos

    “The other reason this is all so hilarious, of course, is that this is exactly how Google treated Sun’s/Oracle’s Java. But no-one worries about the “fragmentation” there. And was that “piracy” — I mean the parts that were, you know, lifted and copied and pasted as is?”

    Unfortunately you misunderstand the situation. Oracle/Sun and Google never had any agreements or licenses with respect to Java (nor did Oracle ever have any IP to license to Google after they decided to do their own implementation).
    Acer has an agreement with the OHA, and will be bound by that. Causing fragmentation within the Android platform is fine – Amazon arguably do it (amongst others.) Causing fragmentation when you are bound by a contract not to do so is not okay, and will lead to termination of that contract (ie. no help from the OHA which is exactly what Google stated. I’m not even sure how or why this could possibly be controversial).
    The nine Java lines and couple of test files that were accidentally copied shouldn’t have been there, and were removed when discovered. Even the insane Oracle attempt to grab money couldn’t assign them any value. They were clearly a mistake.
    There was in fact no real issue of fragmenting mobile Java, as J2ME was a fragment itself (bears almost no resemblance to the other fragments of Java (J2SE / J2EE)), and was also a complete failure – ie. nobody was using it except to program snake games on dumbphones.
    Google is not telling anyone how they can use Android unless they are members of the OHA, and have therefore made commitments towards the android ecosystem. Various companies already use Android without being members of the OHA, and are free to do so in whatever ways they wish.
    If Acer were to judge that they were not getting benefit from OHA membership, they would be free to leave the organisation (subject to complying with existing commitments they have made), and continue to ship forked incompatible versions, without the aid of Google or the OHA. Apparently they feel that the OHA benefits are worthwhile enough for them currently to drop a phone launch. Maybe that will change, but it’s an issue for them to evaluate.
    Amazon have forked android, and are in no legal trouble (nor is any legal trouble with Google or the OHA possible under the terms that Android is licensed under.)
    Aliyun is a different matter – they are clearly distributing pirated software. I’m not sure that there’s any chance of prosecuting them in China, but it’s quite clear. If they were to stop distributing pirated software, they would be free to continue developing their hybrid fragmentation causing android-based OS and distribute it to whoever they want – except OHA members who have agreed not to do that.

    The Apple stuff is off topic. Acer *decided* to “bend over backwards”, which means that they obviously value something they get from the OHA. You are attempting to second guess their business decisions without knowing why they made them.

    Personally I don’t care what Acer does – as an Android manufacturer, they are practically irrelevant. They made their decision (which apparently you don’t understand), and I’m trying to help you see why they did that.

    The only way that Google can control Acer is if Google have something that Acer want. Otherwise they would just walk away and live in their own ecosystem (possibly even based on Android / Aliyun)

  • Matt W

    Could should start by only allowing alliance members to sell devices with current release version. Since I can go buy a new official Android device running Gingerbread, I predict their problem is never getting better.

  • http://twitter.com/geekofhearts Joe Jordan

    how about Andromeda, instead of the rather etymologically strained “Androidium”… Not only one of the closest galaxies, but also going to collide with us in 4.5 billion years :)

  • kibbles

    wait…Windows is now “open”?? how so? where can I download the XP or Windows 8 source, free to publish & sell my own version?

    most curious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=535260227 Jeff Kean

    How do those apples taste fanboy?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=535260227 Jeff Kean

    You obviously have no GMail, No Facebook, No twitter, No Linkedin, nN hotmail, No msn. Cause you know they ALL watch you. Singling out Google shows the “strength” in your argument.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=535260227 Jeff Kean

    well they are both open, I can take either the source of the modified source and modify that and install it on whatever i want, Voila open. By your logic theres only one “real” linux and the rest are “fake”.

    Is the entire Linux world wrong or are you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=535260227 Jeff Kean

    logo use has nothing to do with being open. Joomla is open I cant just jack there logo and use it however I want,yet the Joomla system is open source

  • Kizedek

    Read much? You illustrate exactly the point: there are several senses and connotations of the word floating around. Android fans are now protesting that “open” exclusively refers to being OpenSourced, and that is the only way they ever meant it.

    Whereas, the reality, as I illustrated, is that most of the time Google (and Microsoft) and their fans love to spout how “open” they are and how “closed” Apple is: as in a) modular, licensed approach vs. integrated; or, b) unrestricted stores, with less rules; or, c) involved in more partnerships; etc.

    As far as OpenSource goes, Apple is just as involved in “giving back to the community”: WebKit, H264 codec, FireWire, FreeBSD, Bonjour, etc. And Google shows deficiencies in its apparent commitments to “Openness” or “openness”. Google is also shown to have ulterior or motives for everything it does (or merely says it is doing), despite claiming to do no evil.

    So, again, I would say that trumpeting Google as “open” (or MS), and trumpeting Apple as “closed” in contrast, is disingenuous and abuses every natural connotation of the word “open” in whatever context a person may be using it (which entails using it all too often in several senses at once).

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