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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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RE: Not an issue
By Tony Swash on 3/25/2011 3:14:43 PM , Rating: -1
quote:

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


There are indeed some profound differences as the recent Android Trojan episode revealed. Firstly a Trojan could spread to at least a couple of hundred thousand phones via the Android ecosystem because of its design structure but even more significantly Google then calmly announced that they had checked (i.e accessed) several million phones and deleted the rogue code and apps without the phone owners even knowing it was happening. The Android phone owners only found out about Google altering stuff on their phones after the fact and Google certainly never asked for permission to make those changes.

Thus it is true that Android phones are indeed more open than Apple's iPhone - so open in fact that someone can get inside your phone, alter and delete stuff and never ask permission in advance.

By the way its worth pointing out given your reference to the Apple model limiting money making opportunities for developers that in the real world app developers currently earn ten times as much from the Apple App store as they do from the Android Market. In fact iOS developers have made over $2 billion since the App Stores launch.

This article has an interesting and detailed dissection of the cruel business economics of app development based on ad revenue - the predominant model in the Android ecosystem.

http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2011/...


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.


"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan














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