Random Access Memories

November 12, 2013

Google and Android

by @ 8:40 am. Filed under Business, Personal, Technology

So Android is “supposedly” open source.

And in general that is true. But I found this article: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/googles-iron-grip-on-android-controlling-open-source-by-any-means-necessary/3/ that shows that Google really controls Android much more than I realized.

As the article states:

While it might not be an official requirement, being granted a Google apps license will go a whole lot easier if you join the Open Handset Alliance. The OHA is a group of companies committed to Android—Google’s Android—and members are contractually prohibited from building non-Google approved devices. That’s right, joining the OHA requires a company to sign its life away and promise to not build a device that runs a competing Android fork.

Acer was bit by this requirement when it tried to build devices that ran Alibaba’s Aliyun OS in China. Aliyun is an Android fork, and when Google got wind of it, Acer was told to shut the project down or lose its access to Google apps. Google even made a public blog post about it:

While Android remains free for anyone to use as they would like, only Android compatible devices benefit from the full Android ecosystem. By joining the Open Handset Alliance, each member contributes to and builds one Android platform—not a bunch of incompatible versions.

This makes life extremely difficult for the only company brazen enough to sell an Android fork in the west: Amazon. Since the Kindle OS counts as an incompatible version of Android, no major OEM is allowed to produce the Kindle Fire for Amazon. So when Amazon goes shopping for a manufacturer for its next tablet, it has to immediately cross Acer, Asus, Dell, Foxconn, Fujitsu, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, NEC, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, and ZTE off the list. Currently, Amazon contracts Kindle manufacturing out to Quanta Computer, a company primarily known for making laptops. Amazon probably doesn’t have many other choices.

While I use and enjoy Android this is rather disconcerting to learn. I suppose time will tell how this all plays out.

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