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

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 These old, most likely outdated licensing terms cover the Google applications, and not the open source Android platform, which anyone can download, alter, build and ship.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.

Permalink for comment 582921
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
This is a significant leak
by thesunnyk on Fri 14th Feb 2014 04:20 UTC
Member since:

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