Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Apr 2012 22:35 UTC
Google Google's CEO, Larry Page, has just published a letter titled "2012 Update from the CEO". It's a state of the union-sort of thing, mostly filled with the usual stuff of how great Google supposedly is (we'll decide that for ourselves, why thank you). There's one bit in it, though, that caught my eye - something that puts Android's supposed fragmentation issues in a rather different light.
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Nelson
Member since:
2005-11-29

All Android did was get itself installed everywhere, on everything.

iOS has had the same effect, essentially, because of the iPhone having crowded out most other smartphones. You develop for iOS and you have incredible reach.

The solution was and is a unified ecosystem. Android did it by bringing their frameworks to a lot of devices, iOS did it by having one supremely popular device.

Openness really didn't have much to do for it, and in fact, the run-of-the-mill app developer on Android doesn't really interface with any of the really low levels of the Operating System, in so far as Linux could be swapped out as the Kernel tomorrow, and App developers would be none the wiser.

Driver wise, things are still a mess, but starting to get better with at least some of the Android Kernel changes getting back into the Linux kernel proper, but its still a complete clusterfuck. Graphics drivers are still binary blobs too, and anything else is so Android specific that there's little to no benefit to Linux as a whole.

So where do open standards come into play here, other than Google paying lip service? I find it laughable how free software is piggybacked on by these corrupt, greedy, corporations, yet people still pretend that their principals are still in tact.

Reply Score: 3

jimmystewpot Member since:
2006-01-19

I agree with some of what you say.

I have been baking my own rom's for Snapdragon (HTC Desire/Nexus One and HTC Desire HD). It's only in the last 4-5 months that places like Code Aurora have really started to blossom. On my older 2.3 based rom's they would max out at around 30-40fps using the crummy vendor (HTC) supplied drivers.. now on the same hardware with ICS 62-70fps depending on the test in the same software.. that's a HUGE improvement. My rom is now very fluid in it's rendering.. there are very few apps that are not smooth.. not bad for 2-3 year old phone. (note there is still a big difference between the Desire/Nexus One and DesireHD in terms of graphics performance). Both are dramatically smoother than anything HTC have brought to market.

I am keen to see if what the snapdragon developers keep to their statements about open source.. that could dramatically change the market.

Edited 2012-04-06 00:07 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29

I had hoped so, non blob drivers make things like custom ROMs easier but it seems Qualcomm has already walked those statements back.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Neolander Member since:
2010-03-08

Mostly agree. Compatibility of software across devices is not open standards, it's just an operating system doing its job. It's sad that people can get excited over this, or claim that it is impossible as a defense to OSs that run on half a dozen overpriced slabs (iOS, WP7...). Heck, there's hardly anything open or standard about Windows NT, and it could still likely do the same job equally well with a suitable shell on top of it.

However, I don't see how this hurts the principles of free software as a whole. Nothing about Android belittles, say, the work done by the FSF on binutils and GCC, or other major successes of free software. It is just an example of GPLv2 licensing gone wrong by hardware locking (or "tivoization"), something which GPLv3 was initially designed to prevent before Linux devs started messing around with it.

Edited 2012-04-06 05:10 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29

Don't know why you got voted down. I completely agree with you in retrospect, and I was probably a little too harsh.

Reply Parent Score: 2

MacTO Member since:
2006-09-21

Open was used in three different contexts.

"... openness and investment ..." is mostly about a collaborative approach between vendors. Collaborations can happen between businesses and takes many forms. This includes open source, standards bodies, and agreements between companies. This is probably the biggest reason why the cellular market isn't anywhere near as fragmented today as it was 5 years ago.

"... open ecosystem ..." is likely a reference to the ability of third parties to extend the system. Android accepts contributions for a multitude of sources and places relatively few restrictions on the types of contributions. This is most evident in how apps are developed and deployed. Of course device developers have much greater freedom in developing and deploying their software, which makes it even more appealing to them. This is probably the biggest reason why Android is accepted by developers.

"... open source ..." played a role, albeit a smaller one. It gave device developers the ability to design their own hardware without having to reinvent the kernel or depending upon what a third party OS developer supports (which would make it harder to differentiate their devices). Of course, it also provides them with access to an excellent toolchain that they don't have to reinvent.

Reply Parent Score: 5

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

All Android did was get itself installed everywhere, on everything.


Yes, you make it sound like it was such an easy achievement that you could do it tomorrow with two hands tied behind your back.

And openness isn't limited to a "developer on Android doesn't really interface with any of the really low levels of the Operating System". In the olden days, you had to interface with the low levels and that resulted in you having to get x+y development kits from x+y vendors.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29


Yes, you make it sound like it was such an easy achievement that you could do it tomorrow with two hands tied behind your back.


Considering that Android was released when it was just the iPhone, somebody was going to become dominant by default.

Carriers were looking for an iPhone-like OS and Android fit the bill perfectly. It was a perfect storm.

It had absolutely nothing to do with any kind of superiority, or what have you. It was simply great timing and great coordination with operators. They catered completely to OEMs and UX suffered significantly for it.


And openness isn't limited to a "developer on Android doesn't really interface with any of the really low levels of the Operating System". In the olden days, you had to interface with the low levels and that resulted in you having to get x+y development kits from x+y vendors.


My point was that the openness is completely transparent to the user, there is no perceptible difference. So to that end, it's difficult for me to attribute openness as a magic success factor.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26


Openness really didn't have much to do for it, and in fact, the run-of-the-mill app developer on Android doesn't really interface with any of the really low levels of the Operating System, in so far as Linux could be swapped out as the Kernel tomorrow, and App developers would be none the wiser.

The kernel has nothing to do with openness and nor would it have anything to do with app developers on any platform.

If you're encouraging app developers to interface with the kernel, then there is something deeply wrong with your OS design - apps interface with framework APIs / ABIs that then often interface with a lower level set of ABIs which then communicate with the kernel. There's a whole stack of software that sits between the kernel and the 3rd party app.

What you've done is fallen into the common trap of over emphasising the significance of the kernel in the overall design of an OS.

Reply Parent Score: 8

WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

Isn't that exactly what he was saying?

Reply Parent Score: 2

Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29

You've fallen into the trap of ..completely missing the entire point of my post.

Reply Parent Score: 3

dsmogor Member since:
2005-09-01

I mostly agree with you, but thanks to Linux underpinings and the mindshare it has, hacking (I mean hacking, not cracking) phones (or mobile devices for that matter) have never been as easy and powerfull as it is today.
XDA has really flourished. The simple fact that you can get (mostly) working linux kernel for your device opens lots of possibilities. One of those is hackers showing what could be squeezed of the HW if manufacturer's sw teams had more focus.
As much as not the same as full GNU stack developement process (with distros and such) I find preety much the same qualities in XDA community that are there in other full OSS projects.

Edited 2012-04-06 10:09 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29

Sure thing, I will give you that. It's certainly fun to tinker with it and the folks at XDA are amazing.

I'm not an opponent of this by any means, in fact, I wish drivers were more open so that full AOSP based ROMs would be easier to develop.

Reply Parent Score: 3

moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Another thing was that Android was the only proper alternative to iOS.

Symbian was at the the time had too braindead (Symbian C++) that no one would use it for fun programming. The Open C/C++ APIs only helped to make life a little easier.

So every developer that wanted to develop apps and could not target iOS, Android was the best OS to target for.

Reply Parent Score: 2