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Print 40 comment(s) - last by Tony Swash.. on Mar 27 at 12:08 PM


Google is nixing Honeycomb on smart phones by refusing to release the source.

The decision to close the source will likely be undone when the smart phone and tablet branches are merged with Android 3.5 "Ice Cream Sandwich".  (Source: Laa Loosh)
Company says the OS isn't ready for modification

Google's Android operating system has been tremendously successful.  It's become the top selling phone platform in the world and its app store is stocked with close to 200,000 apps.  But for all that success, a perpetual criticism is a perception that Android's environment is too heterogeneous across various handsets -- part of this is due to carriers/hardware partners failing to roll out the latest versions, but part of it is due to customizations such as Motorola's Motoblur and HTC's Sense UI.

I. Bye Bye Open Source -- For Now

Perhaps that's part of why Google has decided why not to release the source code for Android 3.0 "Honeycomb", yet.

The company states that the code isn't ready yet for external modification, despite the fact that products are being sold with it installed, today.

Aside from preventing unwanted third-party user interfaces, the chief goal of the delay is ostensibly from preventing Honeycomb (Android 3.0) from being put on smartphones.  Google is pressuring smartphone makers to instead use Android 2.3 "Gingerbread".  Google is also less-than-enthusiastic about Honeycomb entering other devices, like set-top boxes and automobiles, without further modification.

Andy Rubin, vice-president for engineering at Google and head of its Android group essentially admits that the move is being made to prevent the platform from heading, in its current state, to places Google didn't intend.  In a BusinessWeek interview, he states, "To make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs. We didn't want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable. So we took a shortcut."

He adds, "Android is an open-source project. We have not changed our strategy."

Then he makes an even more surprising statement -- he says that if his company released Android's source, it couldn't prevent phone makers from putting it in a phone form-factor "and creating a really bad user experience. We have no idea if it will even work on phones."

That statement is intriguing because it sounds a lot like arguments against open source operating systems that one of Android's top competitors, Apple, made in recent years.  And while the delay doesn't mean Google has closed its project off from the public, it does indicate that the company is increasingly seeing eye to eye with Apple on this issue.

Dave Rosenberg, a longtime executive in the open-source software world, complains about the decision, but admits, "Everyone expects this level of complete trust from a company that's worth $185 billion. To me, that is ridiculous. You have to be realistic and see that Google will do what is in [its] best interests at all times.

II. What Will the Impact of Google's Newfound Selectiveness Be?

Ultimately this issue will supposedly be washed away with Android 3.5 "Ice Cream Sandwich", which will unify the smartphone (Gingerbread) and tablet (Honeycomb) trees into a single operating system.

In the meantime, it's possible Google could make stop-gap modifications to improve the Honeycomb experience on smart phones, and release a minor update.  Mr. Rubin states, "The team is hard at work looking at what it takes to get this running on other devices."

It's hard to say how the move will affect sales.  

Sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab were quite good, despite the interface (Android 2.2 Froyo)feeling clunky on a tablet.  By contrast the Motorola Xoom offers a vastly superior UI in Honeycomb, yet has struggled in sales.

Part of this may be due to price -- the Tab debuted at $399 USD on at least one network, while the Xoom debuted at $799 USD.  

The true test of whether the decision to close off the platform should be soon at hand, though.  The Xoom has dropped in price, with a Wi-Fi version launch on Sunday at $599 USD.  And Samsung will soon air a second generation Galaxy Tab 8.9-inch tablet for $469 USD and a a 10.1-inch variant for $499 USD, rumored to launch on June 8.  Dell also looks to soon air updated versions of its "Streak" Android tablets, at competitive prices.

Despite that the decision to temporarily close the source may benefit Google and its customers experience, not everyone is happy with it.

Eben Moglen, a professor of Law at Columbia Law School and the founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center, argues that Google is repeating the mistakes of industry giants like Apple.  He states, "[Closing your source is] usually a mistake. Long experience teaches people that exposing the code to the community helps more than it hurts you."



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Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/25/2011 9:23:03 AM , Rating: 2
It's their code, they can do whatever they want with it.




RE: Not an issue
By ltcommanderdata on 3/25/2011 9:32:40 AM , Rating: 3
It's curious that when its Apple exerting control over their own code and products people are up at arms.


RE: Not an issue
By nafhan on 3/25/2011 9:46:09 AM , Rating: 1
Stop trying to turn this into an Apple vs. Google discussion. That's annoying.


RE: Not an issue
By snakeInTheGrass on 3/26/11, Rating: 0
RE: Not an issue
By invidious on 3/25/2011 9:55:19 AM , Rating: 5
You are confusing closed source and closed platform. Closed platform means that the OS cant be modified, closed platform means that you can't release programs for the device without first party authorization.

Apple is closed platform which is what so many people complain about. If you make an awesome app for the iphone and Apple decides they dont like it they can pull it from the market and you will never make any money.

Google seems to be temporarily trying out closed source but they are still an open platform and nothing like Apple.


RE: Not an issue
By Tony Swash on 3/25/11, Rating: -1
RE: Not an issue
By nafhan on 3/25/2011 3:49:37 PM , Rating: 2
I often tl;dr your stream of consciousness posts, but I want to make a comment about the ad thing. The article is of a case study of a guy who made $30,000 in one year by making a simple, yet quality, game and then having someone else market and distribute it for him. I don't really see the cruelness part. It also specifically said they only looked at revenue for 2010, and didn't mention how much time the guy spent making it. He will almost certainly continue making money from this game for years with little or no additional work on his part, and I doubt he put more than a couple months into this game. Anyway, since when have indy game developers ever had an easy time of things?


RE: Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/25/2011 3:53:49 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
someone can get inside your phone, alter and delete stuff and never ask permission in advance


And Apple can't? You are probably giving them permission to do so just by buying the phone. Remember those bricked after a firmware update?


RE: Not an issue
By Tony Swash on 3/25/11, Rating: 0
RE: Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/26/2011 5:02:00 AM , Rating: 3
In addition to their initial "triage", what about this:

"Apple and its licensors reserve the right to change, suspend, remove, or disable access to any Services at any time without notice. In no event will Apple be liable for the removal of or disabling of access to any such Services. Apple may also impose limits on the use of or access to certain Services, in any case and without notice or liability."

Straight from the EULA.


RE: Not an issue
By Tony Swash on 3/26/11, Rating: 0
RE: Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/26/2011 7:27:17 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously, it's hard to know what that refers to? I know you're smarter than that Tony. If not, go read the entire EULA, it's public.

I don't have an iPhone, but maybe you can tell me what remote wipe does?


RE: Not an issue
By themaster08 on 3/26/2011 9:27:12 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure if that was in Android's EULA you would be using it to your advantage.

Another case of Mr. Swash circumventing around a subject he obviously has little knowledge of. If this trojan had not divulged the remote wipe capabilities on the Android platform, no one would have known about it. Does that mean it wouldn't have existed if this didn't happen?


RE: Not an issue
By Tony Swash on 3/26/11, Rating: -1
RE: Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/26/2011 5:03:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Again no evidence that Apple can change the code or alter the content of your iPhone without you knowing about it or giving your permission. And no evidence that Apple intends to do so. Remote wiping of stolen iPhones has nothing to do with this.


Don't play dumb. You know that can't be proven since the law prohibits anyone from looking into Apple's code.
Remote wiping is proof enough data can be erased remotely, isn't that what you were asking for? When a firmware update bricks your phone, isn't that altering the content of your phone without asking permission?


RE: Not an issue
By Tony Swash on 3/26/11, Rating: 0
RE: Not an issue
By themaster08 on 3/27/2011 4:23:17 AM , Rating: 2
C'mon, Tony. You know as well as I do it's not as black and white as answering just a few simple questions. These are valid questions, however, you know as well as I do that each scenario would need to be assessed individually, with the main focal point being what is the end impact to the user.

My point was that if evidence proves existence, does that which has not been evidenced not exist?

You're getting into a complicated and very controversial topic. However in this case, as you have already pointed out in one of your previous posts if I recall correctly, Google performed this act of judgement for the good of its consumers.

The only one I can answer is this one:
quote:
Should buyers of Android handsets been told that this was something that could happen?

Yes I do believe consumers should be informed.

There is no proof to suggest anything otherwise, and until there is, it's hard to answer any of your questions or even determine whether it's right or wong that any company should have the ability to perform these actions.


RE: Not an issue
By Tony Swash on 3/27/2011 12:08:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
C'mon, Tony. You know as well as I do it's not as black and white as answering just a few simple questions. These are valid questions, however, you know as well as I do that each scenario would need to be assessed individually, with the main focal point being what is the end impact to the user.

My point was that if evidence proves existence, does that which has not been evidenced not exist?

You're getting into a complicated and very controversial topic. However in this case, as you have already pointed out in one of your previous posts if I recall correctly, Google performed this act of judgement for the good of its consumers.

The only one I can answer is this one:
quote:
Should buyers of Android handsets been told that this was something that could happen?

Yes I do believe consumers should be informed.

There is no proof to suggest anything otherwise, and until there is, it's hard to answer any of your questions or even determine whether it's right or wong that any company should have the ability to perform these actions.


OK - I agree things are rarely black and white. I do however feel saying "My point was that if evidence proves existence, does that which has not been evidenced not exist?" means one wanders into the realm of valueless speculation. I could say 'although there is no evidence that Apple/Google/RIM has the power to make handsets explode via a remote command that doesn't mean they don't' but what value would such a statement have? Not much in my view.

I agree Google chose to use this power this time to do good - kill a Trojan infestation - but I for one one was shocked to learn they had such power and they had used it without any sort of end user consultation.

Generally I feel that too many people have bought into the notion that Google is 'open' and somehow generally good just because they give a lot of cool stuff away for free (although only stuff that helps and does not threaten their core advertising business) and also because Google chose to go to war with Apple with Android (and that plays well on this sort of forum). If Google finds it's core business seriously threatened (and they are potentially vulnerable in the sense that they only have one source of revenue) then I wonder how nice they will play.


RE: Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/25/2011 10:10:13 AM , Rating: 2
Obviously the principles elude you, so well try with a real world example.

Because I can play this http://armorgames.com/play/6137/crush-the-castle-2 on Android, while on iOS you have to fork over the cash for Angry Birds.


RE: Not an issue
By Pirks on 3/25/11, Rating: -1
RE: Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/25/2011 12:09:46 PM , Rating: 2
In this case, it seems even common sense eludes you.

That was just an example, there tons of games on that site that I can play for free and you can't. And there are many sites like that.


RE: Not an issue
By B3an on 3/25/2011 1:05:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
intuitive control of Angry Birds


And Birds, intuitive controls? LOL. They couldn't be more simple. Flash games were using the exact same controls, with the same destructible building physics about 5 years ago.
"Crush the Castle" that was linked works in the same way as Angry Birds, the ONLY difference is you click instead of touch. The game could be converted to run on phones with a few lines of code changed. I would even say that game has had more work put in to it, yet it's still free.


RE: Not an issue
By nafhan on 3/25/2011 3:15:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Crap is always free of course.
This is completely false*. It's pretty easy to come up with lots of expensive things that are total crap, and vice versa. For example, I got Angry Birds for free.

Anyway, I attribute most of Angry Birds success to the accessibility of it's characters (angry birds = funny and cute, castle anything = dungeons and dragony) and being in the app store rather than being just another one of the innumerable, random, online, flash games - essentially right place at the right time.

*I'm taking free to mean "didn't pay any money for it."


RE: Not an issue
By Flunk on 3/25/2011 10:28:09 AM , Rating: 5
But it's not their code. Android contains software licensed under the GNU GPL which means that they MUST ship the source with the compiled product or be in violation of the license.

They're in violation of the license now and can be sued by any number of open-source developers, the developers of the Linux kernel for example.


RE: Not an issue
By CZroe on 3/25/2011 10:30:29 AM , Rating: 2
Beat me... barely. ;)


RE: Not an issue
By SkullOne on 3/25/2011 11:31:55 AM , Rating: 3
Couldn't say that any better myself.

While I understand why Google is doing what they are doing I don't agree with it. They should be releasing the source code regardless. Just stick a disclaimer on it though that it is for tablets only.

If a team of developers like CyanogenMod wants to port it to a phone let them. It's their time and their hardware. If they get it working more power to them. If it bricks their phones well they learned their lesson.


RE: Not an issue
By StealthX32 on 3/25/2011 6:13:56 PM , Rating: 2
Google doesn't really care what Cyanogenmod and 3rd party developers so, they represent a tiny fraction of the Android market. I bet this is largely because Samsung put Froyo on the Galaxy Tab, despite all the dissent that Google sent their way.

Buyers of the Galaxy Tab are now wondering why they got a watered down Android experience, and in the end, Android (Google) pays.


RE: Not an issue
By kleinma on 3/25/2011 11:40:46 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah, it's not their code.. its the dozen plus companies suing over the use of their IP in the android codebase without license ;)


RE: Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/25/2011 12:07:38 PM , Rating: 2
Afaik, only the kernel is GPL. The rest is under Apache license, which does not mean they have to release all modifications. I may be wrong, I'm not a license expert.


RE: Not an issue
By Flunk on 3/25/11, Rating: 0
RE: Not an issue
By bug77 on 3/25/2011 12:49:20 PM , Rating: 2
I dare say not everything in a Linux distro is GPL.


RE: Not an issue
By InfinityzeN on 3/25/2011 1:41:26 PM , Rating: 2
Actually no, that is not how it works. You being a programmer means that you really don't, since we are talking a legal issue here.

Only the kernal is GPL in Android. Everything else is not a derived work. On most Linux distros, only about half the code is actually under GPL.

I rather hate the GNU and will stick with BSD.


RE: Not an issue
By avxo on 3/25/2011 3:26:22 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yes, yes it does. As a programmer I'm very aware of how this works, any derived product of any GPL project must be GPL. If the kernel used is GPL then the entire OS must be GPL.


BULLSHIT

Your statement is almost certainly not true. Legally, it's (at best) unclear if using a GPL kernel for an O/S means that the O/S qualifies as a derivative work for copyright purposes if all the interaction between the O/S and the kernel is done over well-defined public interfaces.

To see how ridiculous your statement is consider the following: I independently develop a kernel that exposes the kernel API set of the Windows NT kernel as present in, say Windows 2000 and license it under the GPL. I replace the windows kernel with my own, and boot up the system. Windows 2000 isn't magically a derivative work of my kernel, nor does it somehow fall under the control of the GPL.

You, as a programmer, may think you are very aware of how this works, but clearly you aren't. Perhaps you should take a course on copyright law instead of memorizing rms and thinking that's sound legal advice.


RE: Not an issue
By CZroe on 3/25/2011 10:29:50 AM , Rating: 2
Isn't somewhat based on Linux?


RE: Not an issue
By HrilL on 3/25/2011 12:47:33 PM , Rating: 2
Not exactly. They are using Linux and thus have to follow the licensing rules that are in place. They're not allowed to use the code unless they release the source.


RE: Not an issue
By InfinityzeN on 3/25/2011 1:42:04 PM , Rating: 2
Only the kernal is Linux.


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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