Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Feb 2014 23:38 UTC
Google

Another day, another fear-mongering 'Android is closed!'-article at Ars Technica. After Peter Bright's article last week (sharply torn to shreds by Dianne Hackborn), we now have an article with the scary title "New Android OEM licensing terms leak; 'open' comes with a lot of restrictions".

The title itself is already highly misleading, since one, the licensing terms aren't new (they're from early 2011 - that's three years old), and two, they're not licensing terms for Android, but for the suite of Google applications that run atop Android.

This article makes the classic mistake about the nature of Android. It conflates the Android Open Source Project with the suite of optional proprietary Google applications, the GMS. These old, most likely outdated licensing terms cover the Google applications, and not the open source Android platform, which anyone can download, alter, build and ship. Everyone can build a smartphone business based on the Android Open Source Project, which is a complete smartphone operating system.

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Did some personal accounting...
by hobgoblin on Fri 14th Feb 2014 00:07 UTC
hobgoblin
Member since:
2005-07-06

And just about the only things from the GMS set i would seriously miss is the Play store (and maybe Maps, but there are likely to be options).

The rest are either fluff, annoying, or not usable outside of USA in the first place (hello big media).

Reply Score: 6

RE: Did some personal accounting...
by ddc_ on Fri 14th Feb 2014 01:05 UTC in reply to "Did some personal accounting..."
ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

Exactly. In fact the Google services glue is the only reason I flash Gapps on my phone - otherwise I would go for different set of apps, and practically from the whole set I only use Play store, Hangouts and Maps, albeit only former is something I have no replacement for currently.

Reply Score: 4

Is AOSP still 'Android'?
by oskeladden on Fri 14th Feb 2014 00:17 UTC
oskeladden
Member since:
2009-08-05

Thom, I think the point is that whilst AOSP is still clearly open, AOSP and Android are diverging so rapidly that it's starting to get difficult to say they're the same OS. If the most popular applications written for one version of a platform will not work on another, and if the user experience is fundamentally different, are they really still the same OS? We're not quite at that stage as yet, but with the ever-deepening integration of cloud features into Android, there's a real chance that we'll get there in a couple of releases.

I should stress that I'm not finding fault with Google. But I really did like Andy Rubin's pithy definition of 'open', and I feel slightly sad that we're getting to a point where if you issue those commands, you'll end up with an OS that is no longer fully compatible with the OS Google actually ships to its commercial partners.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Is AOSP still 'Android'?
by WorknMan on Fri 14th Feb 2014 00:38 UTC in reply to "Is AOSP still 'Android'?"
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Thom, I think the point is that whilst AOSP is still clearly open, AOSP and Android are diverging so rapidly that it's starting to get difficult to say they're the same OS. If the most popular applications written for one version of a platform will not work on another, and if the user experience is fundamentally different, are they really still the same OS?


No, they're really not. That's why I think that any so-called Android device that doesn't come with the Google suite of apps (ESPECIALLY the Play store) doesn't really qualify. For example, the Kindle Fire is NOT an Android tablet - it's an Amazon tablet running a bastardized Android hybrid.

And do you know what? That's okay with me. To me, Google Play and GP services is sort of the glue that holds the whole thing together, and prevents Android from turning into the fragmented mess that is desktop Linux. I'm not really a fan of 'open' systems for the sake of them being open. I like a hybrid system like this, where one entity has a little control, that keeps things at least somewhat uniform between the various builds/vendors.

Edited 2014-02-14 00:40 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Is AOSP still 'Android'?
by JAlexoid on Fri 14th Feb 2014 00:57 UTC in reply to "RE: Is AOSP still 'Android'?"
JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

That's why I think that any so-called Android device that doesn't come with the Google suite of apps (ESPECIALLY the Play store) doesn't really qualify. For example, the Kindle Fire is NOT an Android tablet - it's an Amazon tablet running a bastardized Android hybrid.


Any device that can pass the compatibility suite is an Android based device. Kindle Fire does not pass that suite.

But technically any device that has no GMS will not have the permission to be named AndroidTM.

Reply Score: 6

RE[3]: Is AOSP still 'Android'?
by WorknMan on Fri 14th Feb 2014 02:00 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Is AOSP still 'Android'?"
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

But technically any device that has no GMS will not have the permission to be named AndroidTM.


Nor should it, IMO. Some people may thing Google having proprietary hooks into the OS is a bad thing, but I do not. It keeps vendors from rewriting the whole damn thing so that only a fraction of the apps work, and still calling it Android. I suppose it would be possible to have the whole thing entirely open source, but forbidding certain modifications to keep things from breaking, but that's really two sides of the same coin, in that either approach violates at least one of the '4 freedoms'.

Like Linus, I am more of a pragmatist when it comes to this sort of thing ;)

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Is AOSP still 'Android'?
by l3v1 on Fri 14th Feb 2014 06:30 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Is AOSP still 'Android'?"
l3v1 Member since:
2005-07-06

But technically any device that has no GMS will not have the permission to be named AndroidTM.


Very good. At least you know to expect something different. Noone would like to find that out later.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Is AOSP still 'Android'?
by bassbeast on Fri 14th Feb 2014 23:11 UTC in reply to "Is AOSP still 'Android'?"
bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

Here is what I personally do not get...why is Thom and others waving that Google fanboi flag as hard as they can and getting upset when we have seen THIS EXACT SAME THING over and over AND OVER?

Company gets big, company becomes douchey...is this REALLY shocking to anybody here? Let me spell it out in simple terms that will hopefully make it clear as crystal, the only reason Google was nice before was they were on the bottom but they are not on the bottom anymore, are they? Now they have a duty to the stockholders to seek maximum rent and you can't do that by giving the competition the tools to compete. think Google LIKES the Kindle? Not anymore than they liked those CCC tablets that removed their apps for some homebrew stuff.

At the end of the day when a company reaches the top they WILL become assholish and start doing any trick they can to insure that big fat money truck stays on course and they stay #1, we have seen this time and time and time again. And this isn't a slight on Google, not like they are the first company to become assholish when they reached #1, I'm just pointing out that as threats to their dominane show up they WIL be more like late 90s MSFT than they will be the old "throw cool shit at the wal and se what sticks" company of old.

Oh and FYI, don't know if this goes for outside the USA as well but GOG is giving away Dungeon Keeper Gold for free for 42 hours, link below, enjoy and happy VD.

<a href="http://www.gog.com/">GOG

Reply Score: 4

Comment by ilovebeer
by ilovebeer on Fri 14th Feb 2014 03:23 UTC
ilovebeer
Member since:
2011-08-08

So, let's get this straight once and for all. People do not buy iPhone and iPads because of marketing or the Apple brand - they buy them because they're genuinely good devices that are an optimal fit for many, many people.

Interesting you say this Thom. I've made similar statements in previous postings but you insisted that everybody falls victim to marketing & advertising whether they know it or not -- that most people's purchasing habits are not dictated by preference & value but rather their subconscious being spammed.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by ilovebeer
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 14th Feb 2014 11:19 UTC in reply to "Comment by ilovebeer"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

It's not interesting at all. Just because people do not buy iOS devices solely based on marketing does not mean it does not play a role.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by ilovebeer
by The123king on Fri 14th Feb 2014 13:49 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by ilovebeer"
The123king Member since:
2009-05-28

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/02/13/uber_fanbois_begins_queuing... People never buy iPhones purely because of the marketing?

Edited 2014-02-14 13:51 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by ilovebeer
by ilovebeer on Fri 14th Feb 2014 17:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by ilovebeer"
ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

That's not what you said and you were very clear when you said, "So, let's get this straight once and for all. People do not buy iPhone and iPads because of marketing or the Apple brand - they buy them because they're genuinely good devices that are an optimal fit for many, many people."

Since you didn't agree when I previously said the same, what made you change your mind? Remember, you did argue against the idea.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by aligatro
by aligatro on Fri 14th Feb 2014 03:42 UTC
aligatro
Member since:
2010-01-28

Dianne Hackborn... what a last name.

"But... there is one they fear. In their tongue... she is 'Rekkiin' - Hackborn!" *skyrim music*

I wonder how often she hears about people joking about her last name, especially among the tech-savvy groups.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by aligatro
by kwan_e on Fri 14th Feb 2014 08:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by aligatro"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Dianne Hackborn... what a last name.


Daenerys Stormborn.

Reply Score: 5

This is a significant leak
by thesunnyk on Fri 14th Feb 2014 04:20 UTC
thesunnyk
Member since:
2010-05-21

First, I want to say that I absolutely agree with most of Thom's article. That original article on Ars had a quality I normally associate with lesser sites such as Gawker (or, dare I say it, Extremetech). The second Ars article (not linked by Thom), however, is on point. Aside from the snide jab: "Open comes with a lot of restrictions", the article makes several points which Thom should give more credence to.

Firstly, it's understandable that a lot of these licensing agreements are not "news", but the documents are also the newest pieces of actual evidence we've got for these agreements. There's a difference between facts and hearsay, and these are the facts for how Google deals with other companies.

Secondly, it is important to note that once you (as a large company) start using Android (vs AOSP) you are basically trapped forevermore. No one in your company can compete with Google's services. This means that if you wanted to transition away from Android to AOSP or an AOSP fork, you would need to do it in one fell swoop, assuming you could do it at all.

This is likely why Samsung is building Tizen. It might even have preferred to work on AOSP apps, but it basically won't be able to ship them. On Tizen it's free to compete little by little with Google.

Thirdly, it is important to reiterate that AOSP is not a very community driven project. If Google don't want your patches, AOSP won't ever have those patches. If Amazon wanted to contribute patches back to AOSP, I don't expect that they would be successful.

Finally, it is also important to realise that most people don't interact with AOSP at all, rather with Android. So if they ask themselves "is Google spying on me?" the answer isn't "well they can't because Android is open", it's blurrier. If they ask "What features will I lose if I get Cyanogenmod" the answer is increasingly unclear. If they ask what apps they can run if they flash their phone, the answer is increasingly unclear.

Other comments here (and the article, too) are correctly identifying the divergence of AOSP and Android as operating systems. For me personally, I'm already looking to jump to one of the other communities which will be more open, more accepting, and have better relationships, such as Ubuntu, Jolla, OpenWebOS, or Firefox (or even Tizen). I wouldn't want to start hacking on AOSP.

Edited 2014-02-14 04:23 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: This is a significant leak
by l3v1 on Fri 14th Feb 2014 06:34 UTC in reply to "This is a significant leak"
l3v1 Member since:
2005-07-06

Thirdly, it is important to reiterate that AOSP is not a very community driven project. If Google don't want your patches, AOSP won't ever have those patches. If Amazon wanted to contribute patches back to AOSP, I don't expect that they would be successful.


How is that relevant (community-driven or not)? The point is that you can take the AOSP, drop in whatever you want and put it on your devices without the need to 'sell your soul' to Google.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: This is a significant leak
by moondevil on Fri 14th Feb 2014 08:07 UTC in reply to "RE: This is a significant leak"
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Except many of the new APIs are only available via the Google services, so you also loose on the available applications.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: This is a significant leak
by kwan_e on Fri 14th Feb 2014 08:11 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: This is a significant leak"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Yes, but the point is how many of these "many APIs" are for proprietary Google services?

Reply Score: 3

oskeladden Member since:
2009-08-05

It depends on how you define "Google services". The API for you to send data from *your* server to an Android device is in Google Play Services, not AOSP. This covers pushing notifications, sending messages upstream, everything. Is this a Google service? In technical terms, it very clearly is - the API passes the data through Google's servers in order to get them onto the end-user's phone. But when people hear "Google services", they usually tend to think of consumer services like Gmail, Gchat or Google Maps, not low-level building blocks for applications which a consumer will neither see nor sign up to.

The situation with the Google Play Games Services is even more striking. This provides achievements, leaderboards and cloud save (enabling syncing of progress across devices). Any game relying on any of these features will simply not work on AOSP. Are these "Google services"? Again, they are in technical terms, but they're not the sort of thing end-users will associate with "signing up for a Google service." And the really striking thing is that Google supports these services on a range of platforms beyond Android - including iOS and even web games - but not AOSP.

Reply Score: 5

chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

The API for you to send data

The API? You mean one (particularly easy to use) API.

Same with Games Services. They interact with Google Accounts. Nothing prevents you from implementing your own achievements system, or using the web API.

Saying that apps running on AOSP without GMS cannot use pushing notifications or achievements in games would be disingenuous.

Reply Score: 2

oskeladden Member since:
2009-08-05

Oh, for crimmy's sake. Yeah, sure. And you can write the whole thing to address controllers and devices directly and completely avoid using the OS's APIs for interacting with them. Heck, you can write your own bootloader and OS kernel and avoid using the OS altogether. You don't need any OS-provided API by that logic - nothing prevents you from implementing your own dialog box system.

The point is this. Google Android is moving in a direction that's making interaction with online services as fundamental a part of the OS and its programming framework as interaction with the device's hardware. This is how the OS is being designed, and this is how it's going to evolve. We are getting to a stage where interaction with online services is as fundamental a part of an OS's programming framework as interaction with the graphic module or the audio codec. If in such a world you have to reimplement virtually all APIs that entail interaction with online services, you've ended up with an OS that is no longer compatible with Google Android, because programs written for Google Android won't run on it. An OS, many of whose core APIs are cordoned off and unavailable in the open-source version, is not an open OS. It may be built on top of an open OS, but it's a different OS from that open OS. Android is already almost at that stage, and Ars Technica are completely correct to draw attention to the fact that this is where Google is going.

This doesn't mean that AOSP not useful, or is a poor OS, or any such thing. It just means that we need to recognise that AOSP and Android are becoming two different things, and that we can't call Android open just because AOSP is open. This is not an issue of semantics. As Ben Edelman points out in the piece* on which Ars was drawing, this has a range of legal implications - not least in terms of competition / antitrust law - which have been glossed over until now because of the "Android is open" argument, but which can't be ignored if that no longer holds.

[*] http://www.benedelman.org/news/021314-1.html

Reply Score: 7

RE[7]: This is a significant leak
by kwan_e on Fri 14th Feb 2014 12:02 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: This is a significant leak"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

This reads like you didn't read Diane Hackborn's rebuttal.

Reply Score: 2

chithanh Member since:
2006-06-18

And you can write the whole thing to address controllers and devices directly and completely avoid using the OS's APIs for interacting with them.
I love how Amazon provides us with nice counterexamples for all those uninformed opinions about how GMS is necessary and AOSP without it is useless.

Push notification via Amazon Device Messaging:
https://developer.amazon.com/public/apis/engage/device-messaging

Achievements and game progress tracking with Amazon GameCircle:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000807511

Certainly, Amazon did not write any code to address controllers and devices directly.

Interaction with online services is easily possible and necessary, and only interaction with Google services is done through proprietary code.

Reply Score: 3

jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

Most, but all you've done is restate the problem in question form to say exactly what others are saying:

Many of the most useful APIs that an OEM would want access to our Google proprietary APIs. Yes. Your point?

Reply Score: 1

RE: This is a significant leak
by ddc_ on Sat 15th Feb 2014 17:46 UTC in reply to "This is a significant leak"
ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

Secondly, it is important to note that once you (as a large company) start using Android (vs AOSP) you are basically trapped forevermore. No one in your company can compete with Google's services. This means that if you wanted to transition away from Android to AOSP or an AOSP fork, you would need to do it in one fell swoop, assuming you could do it at all.

Why so? The things that matter for company are pretty simple: mail, contacts, calendar (agenda), probably GPS tracking. All these services can be deployed from readily available software in a couple of hours (including thorough testing).

Reply Score: 3

Android is Android is Android...
by codifies on Fri 14th Feb 2014 06:50 UTC
codifies
Member since:
2014-02-14

I use Android without gapps, and using my own VPS (or "cloud" if you slavishly follow all the latest buzz words) and FOSS I basically have all the functionality of Android + gapps...

All this BS is just that same as the fragmentation myth - my Fiancée run's Gingerbread with many of the same apps I do, guess what she really can't understand it when I attempt to explain the fragmentation myth...!

What is all boils down to is the same reason for the patent attacks - if you can't compete then CHEAT, LIE and do ANYTHING to smear the reputation of the competition - all it really does is show the poor attitude and desperation of the "competition"

Why attempt to strive for 100% share when getting it would be counter productive and it will never happen anyway - oh silly me "common" sense again...

Edited 2014-02-14 06:50 UTC

Reply Score: 3

pica
Member since:
2005-07-10

As far I understand the contracts leaked:
* the Android OS is open
* the usage of the Android logo is restricted

But, this is old news.

Greetings,
pica

Reply Score: 3

tkeith Member since:
2010-09-01

Exactly the first article was Ars making a huge reach to try and argue a pointless topic. The second is just click bait with information that virtually everyone familiar with Android already knows. Ars Technica has really gone downhill, I'm not sure if they are just looking for page views or someone there just really doesn't like Android.

Reply Score: 3

Old information over blown.
by tkeith on Fri 14th Feb 2014 12:32 UTC
tkeith
Member since:
2010-09-01

Since very early on Android has contained proprietary Google apps. They have always been separate and complimentary, and not essential, to the AOSP base. The amount of Google apps has grown(not surprising) and Google has created a separate app that contains shared code(Google play services) that others can even use. Of course Google would like everyone to use their services, this is not news. The beauty of Android is that others(like Microsoft) could make their own app that contains plugins and ties to their services. How is this "locking down" or making Android less open?

Google owns the name Android and makes an agreement that if you want to use their propitiatory name and services you have to use it properly. Again how is this news?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Old information over blown.
by bassbeast on Sat 15th Feb 2014 00:08 UTC in reply to "Old information over blown."
bassbeast Member since:
2007-11-11

Because Google is tying more and more of the low end through the proprietary wall so its no longer "write once run anywhere" but "Write for Google, Android, ASOP" and guess which one of those three gets left out often?

But don't take my word for it, load ASOP onto a device you have and try loading the top 20 off the Playstore and see for yourself. its really not hard to do, just download them from the Playstore onto an Android device and copy the .APKs.

I have a feeling you'll find that quite a few don't work and this is why it very much IS a problem and DOES make the platform less open, because what good is having the code if the apps don't run? after all by that logic the TiVo is "open" because they give you the code,never mind you can't do anything with it.

At the end of the day the ASOP is worthless if Android apps won't run without major porting, and this is a serious problem that I have a feeling will only get worse as more competition enters the market and Google tries to lock in their place at the top of the heap. Remember friends, with Google products you are NOT the customer, you are THE PRODUCT and if they can't lock down those eyeballs,make sure those ads aren't blocked, and gather that data? Then that is tens of millions of profits right down the drain. So just like every corp that has reached #1 they will do whatever it takes, ethical or not, to continue to dominate the market.

Reply Score: 2

Re:
by kurkosdr on Fri 14th Feb 2014 12:35 UTC
kurkosdr
Member since:
2011-04-11

Surprised nobody has mentioned the "new launcher" thing (available in the Nexus 5) which is proprietary and not in AOSP.

So, the argument that GMS is only for accessing Google's services became invalid with KitKat. Now, fundamental parts of the OS are shoved under Google Mobile Services, while the corresponding AOSP versions will be left to rot just like the stock android browser was.

Edited 2014-02-14 12:38 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: Re:
by tkeith on Fri 14th Feb 2014 14:48 UTC in reply to "Re:"
tkeith Member since:
2010-09-01

How is the standard launcher "rotting"? The nexus 7 still uses it, it's still in AOSP. Just because Google has made a proprietary version(to incorporate Google now) doesn't mean the AOSP version is junk. The Nexus 5 version is simply the AOSP version with Google now incorporated. Most third party launchers are based on the AOSP launcher, would you call them rotting?

Reply Score: 5

Comment by The123king
by The123king on Fri 14th Feb 2014 13:45 UTC
The123king
Member since:
2009-05-28

Thom, i appreciate your enthusiasm, but there's no point posting stuff that's common-knowledge

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by The123king
by Adurbe on Fri 14th Feb 2014 14:45 UTC in reply to "Comment by The123king"
Adurbe Member since:
2005-07-06

I defend his decision on this one. Recently (since the nokia android rumour) there have been a lot of 'half truth' articles floating around. Its by no means a bad idea to remind people of the known truths we take for granted.

Reply Score: 4

Comment by Soulbender
by Soulbender on Fri 14th Feb 2014 15:00 UTC
Soulbender
Member since:
2005-08-18

On the Internet no-one can hear your facts.

Reply Score: 4

Android similar to OSX now
by FunkyELF on Fri 14th Feb 2014 15:09 UTC
FunkyELF
Member since:
2006-07-26

Android has an open "core" of functionality but is basically useless without Google's non-open apps like the Google Play Store, Maps, etc.

This is similar to Apple's OSX which has an open kernel.

The difference is that when Apple goes around saying their OS runs on an open kernel they're explicit about it only being the kernel that is open.

The problem with Android now is the definition. Similar to the problem with Linux a while back and lead to the term GNU/Linux.

Should we start referring to these devices as Google/Android/Linux devices where Android and Linux may be open and free but Google's stuff isn't.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Android similar to OSX now
by tkeith on Fri 14th Feb 2014 16:43 UTC in reply to "Android similar to OSX now"
tkeith Member since:
2010-09-01

You are either trolling or completely ignorant. I can flash Android on my HP touchpad, not install Google apps and still have a 100% working device. I can install a third party app store or just apks. Tell me how OSX's kernel is anything like that at all? It's like comparing a complete car without XM radio to an engine.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by lucas_maximus
by lucas_maximus on Fri 14th Feb 2014 20:23 UTC
lucas_maximus
Member since:
2009-08-18

So lots of things that make Android well Android is missing, but Android is still open.

I wonder if the same will be said when they just post the modified Linux kernel.

Reply Score: 2

Thom, seriously, take a breath
by atsureki on Mon 17th Feb 2014 23:08 UTC
atsureki
Member since:
2006-03-12

Bright's article, which Hackborn did not "tear to shreds" but rather received with familiar defensiveness about Google's precious good intentions and not-being-evil, was about how it would be completely unproductive to fork AOSP, because it wouldn't give Microsoft any technology they haven't already built themselves and it wouldn't grant any compatibility with actual Android apps that exist, full stop.

In order to get compatibility with actual Android apps that exist, you have to buy into the entire Google ecosystem, all strings attached, including a mandatory (for both OEM and user) installation of the Google+ app that no one wants and a clause forbidding your company from using AOSP in any other ways.

Bright's completely un-torn-to-shreds article correctly points out that Android without Google's full suite of "added" value is nothing recognizable as Android, and the fact is that no part of GMS is open: not the code, not the terms, not the updates, not the review process.

These newly released licensing terms additionally make it clear that Android's dependence on Google is no accident or technical necessity, as Hackborn would have you believe. Android OEMs are not "free" to decline to incorporate Google+ or to use Skyhook for location services, because Google makes it mandatory that you align your phone's function completely with Google's apps, services, and vision, and that you not simultaneously leverage AOSP into any less-Googly alternatives. You can argue that that's fair as a form of payment, but not in the same breath as you argue that Android™ is open.

Reply Score: 2