Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st Oct 2013 22:15 UTC, submitted by ddc_

Ars Technica has a great article about what, exactly, Google is doing to retain (or retake) control over Android. Many things were already known, and have, in fact, been discussed here before. For instance, the Open Handset Alliance prohibits its members from forking Android or using other companies' forks. This had been known for a long time, and has always been an important aspect of the OHA - its goal is to prevent the fragmentation of Android, after all. Another thing we've always known is that the Google Applications - like YouTube and such - have always been closed source, and that a license is required to use them (they are freely available though, and Android is completely usable about them.

There are two bigger problems, however. First, the more Google moves parts of Android to Google Play (such as the keyboard or calendar), the less open source Android becomes.

For some of these apps, there might still be an AOSP equivalent, but as soon as the proprietary version was launched, all work on the AOSP version was stopped. Less open source code means more work for Google's competitors. While you can't kill an open source app, you can turn it into abandonware by moving all continuing development to a closed source model. Just about any time Google rebrands an app or releases a new piece of Android onto the Play Store, it's a sign that the source has been closed and the AOSP version is dead.

There's definitely an opportunity here for groups like CyanogenMod - and in fact, that's exactly what's happening. For instance, CM has created the camera application Focal, which is available in the Play Store. In other words, most of the Google Applications can be recreated and improved upon easily, after which they can be placed in the Play Store. An exception, of course, is the Play Store application itself, but even that one has alternatives, such as the Amazon App Store.

A bigger problem, however, are the Google Play Services. This is an Android application - closed source - that provides developers with access to a whole bunch of Google's APIs. It's becoming more and more mandatory.

Taking the Android app ecosystem from Google seems easy: just get your own app store up and running, convince developers to upload their apps to it, and you're on your way. But the Google APIs that ship with Play Services are out to stop this by convincing developers to weave dependence on Google into their apps. Google's strategy with Google Play Services is to turn the "Android App Ecosystem" into the "Google Play Ecosystem" by making a developer's life as easy as possible on a Google-approved device - and as difficult as possible on a non-Google-approved device.

In other words, there's a lot going on at Google to prevent more forks, such as Kindle Fire, from happening. I had no issues with Google's own applications being closed source (you can easily replace them), but the Play Services are a much bigger issue. As more and more applications adopt Play Services, the harder it'll become to run Android 'Google free' - and that's not exactly an ideal situation.

Thread beginning with comment 575165
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
by 1c3d0g on Tue 22nd Oct 2013 01:50 UTC
Member since:

Everybody seems to be losing sight of the fact that the real reason Google is moving everything they can to the Play store, is because the damn carriers/manufacturers (pick the one to blame) are TOO GOD DAMN SLOW to update Android within a reasonable timeframe.

This way, Android can still stay relatively fresh with new content/features/bug fixes when Google pushes out a new update, instead of waiting for the silly carriers/manufacturers to stop sitting on their ass and actually do something with their outdated software.

Sure, this is not the ideal way, but it's the best compromise Google can come up with. If any of you have better ideas, please share it with the rest of the world.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Sigh...
by some1 on Tue 22nd Oct 2013 03:33 in reply to "Sigh..."
some1 Member since:

Certainly not everyone. Thom wrote quite a lot about that being of one the reasons. However, if this was the only reason, nothing would stop Google from open sourcing their Play Store version of the app (e.g. keyboard). I don't think this ever happened yet.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE: Sigh...
by BlueofRainbow on Tue 22nd Oct 2013 03:57 in reply to "Sigh..."
BlueofRainbow Member since:

The positive is moving the user visible parts to the Play Store so that end-users can get the better/more recent experience despites the OEM being slow in updating their Android-ware. In this fashion, Android appears never to lag iOS.

The negative is that the open-source apps are now 2 or 3 generations behind their Google closed-source refinements and the gap will keep increasing. And any OEM straying from the Google path appears ruthlessly ejected from the collective or bullied to cease their efforts. This feels like a "bait and switch" tactic for complete control of the mobile platform.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Sigh...
by gubol123 on Tue 22nd Oct 2013 08:52 in reply to "Sigh..."
gubol123 Member since:

If the only reason for moving them to play store is because carriers are slow in updating Andriod, they can move apps to Play Store and still keep them open... better yet move the existing apps to play store and keep improving them, rather than replacing them with closed apps...

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE: Sigh...
by dsmogor on Tue 22nd Oct 2013 13:11 in reply to "Sigh..."
dsmogor Member since:

Pushing stuff to Play doesn't contradict with OSS. Google is however using that modularization as an excuse of levaving AOSP behind.

Reply Parent Score: 3