Linked by AcacioMartins on Wed 6th Apr 2011 22:13 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source In a recent article Thom contributed his opinion to the discussion about the openness of Android that started when Google choose to withhold the source code for honeycomb, here are my 2 cents. In the article the obligations GPL puts on Google are made very clear. This makes it clear that Android is indeed an open-source project. However being open-source and being open aren't always the same thing.
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_Nine_
Member since:
2010-10-13

Touché. And I think it's worth pointing out that analysts and average consumers don't give two sh*ts about any of these degrees of "open-ness." To analysts, open simply means one thing: not a closed ecosystem or, to use the popular term these days, a walled garden.

Compared to Apple and the Mac, people would say Microsoft and Windows are "open". Obviously, the Linux and UNIX communities would take issue with that. But, that's the problem with the false dichotomy implied by calling something either "open" or "closed." On the one hand, it's easy to define the extremes when you have clear examples. Most people would put Apple on the extreme end of the closed side. But where would they put Microsoft?

What Google is doing with Android is not unlike what MS does with all its Windows platforms with two key differences:
1. Google releases the source code.
2. Google doesn't charge other companies to license the platform.

These simply were disruptive moves that Google used to gain fast OEM adoption of the platform. That's all the analysts care about as it has driven the Android ecosystem. To average consumers, the primary benefits of openness are greater carrier and handset selection and a less restrictive app marketplace.

However, you easily argue that the result of these moves has been anything but open. Handset makers have created several forks of Android, which--save for the original source released by Google--essentially are like proprietary, device-specific versions of the platform.

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