Android Software Development Kit License Agreement. Android.com. August 18, 2008.
Android's software development kit (SDK) is a central part of what defines the operating system as open source. The SDK provides the public with the technical tools needed to create applications for Android. In the SDK License Agreement, Google enumerates all the components of fair use of the kit. The agreement is described as a legally binding contract that must be accepted in order to use the SDK.
Some have criticized the Android license agreement as an indicator of how Android is not truly open source. For instance, developers cannot create derivative versions of the SDK, nor can they combine the SDK with other kinds of software. Other articles in the license agreement, such as article 9.3 (D), which states that Google may end its license agreement with a developer if it is decided that provision of the SDK to the developer is "no longer commercially viable." This article indicates Google's interest in using open source software only if it involves monetary gain for Google itself. While Google's commercial interests shouldn't come as a surprise, this particular point in the license agreement nevertheless serves as a reminder that Google hasn't entirely given up control of it's Android software, and that its use of open source software isn't ultimately for the sake of democracy.
While some of the criticism against the Android SDK license agreement was aimed at the initial license agreement (which coincided with the initial release of the SDK, before the release of the G1), the updated, more "open" license agrreement that Google released after the G1 entered the market still retains elements of the original license agreement. While Google has described the updated agreement as being truly open source, the impression one derives from the current agreement is that Google still maintains control over its SDK and over the availability of applications on its market.
tagged android ipc license_agreement by philipjm ...on 10-APR-09
Paul, Ryan. "Developing Apps for Google Android: it's a mixed bag." Ars Technica. December 19, 2007.
In this article from computer enthusiast Web site Ars Technica, correspondent Ryan Paul describes his first hand experience using Google's Android development kit. Paul begins by describing the outcry of developers who are frustrated with the shortcomings of the development kit. According to Paul, one of the most critical problems with the kit is the lack of a public issue-tracking system. As it stands, Android users are able to report issues with applications and these reports are then added to Google's own private issue-tracking catalogue. Paul notes how companies like Skype, Nokia and Trolltech have all successfully developed public issue-tracking systems, and thus one should expect Google to be able to do the same. As it stands, Adroid users who report issues have no way of detecting trends in issues nor are they able to know when or if an issue will be fixed until after Google fixes it.
While the lack of public issue tracking presents a serious problem, Paul is also sure to praise the Android software for its strengths. He notes how an Eclipse plug-in makes repairing bugs relatively hassle-free, and he praises an application in the development kti that allows developers to easily test how their applications will look onscreen. As mentioned, Paul used the Android development kit to create his own application - a Twitter client. In the end, he was able to do so in 130 lines of code - an impressively small amount, according to Paul. Overall, Paul seems optimistic about the Android software. He describes it as a "definitely viable and effective platform for application development" and he sees the problems with the software as stemming from Android's being in the early stages of development. Nevertheless, many of the problems with the software are inexcusable and need to be addressed in order for Android to remain a contendor as a marketable mobile operating system.
tagged android apps google by philipjm ...on 10-APR-09
Ray, Bill. "Google's Android 'designed to drive fragmentation.'" The Register. April 3, 2008.
In this article from science and technology news site The Register, correspondent Bill Ray provides a brief description and analysis of Google's potential strategic interests in the fragmentation of the market for mobile operating systems. Some open source experts have complained that Android uses its own Java (programming language) machine rather than use mainstream Java, which in turn makes Android less streamlined with other open source software. Google explains that its reason for using its own Java machine is to keep its source code under an Apache license that will permit more customization among Android users. According to Google, its Java machine allows users to modify the Android code however they want - so a user can, for instance, replace all the Google software with Yahoo software.
Ray points to Microsoft Windows as an example of what Google is fighting against in the mobile industry. Since many people like to use Microsoft Office, and Office works best with Windows, most people end up using Windows in order to stay in sync with their peers/co-workers. If Google were to successfully fragment the mobile OS market so that no one OS dominated, then Web 2.0 applications (that is, applications that are not tied to any particular OS, but rather exist on the web) would be the most viable. Since Google's strong point happens to be Web 2.0 applications (consider Google Docs and Google Maps, etc), a fragmented mobile OS market would therefore be desirable. While Ray does not attempt to assert that Google's has been fragmentation all along with Android, his article at least provides one potential commercial interest in pushing for an open source mobile OS.
Roth, Daniel. "Google's Open Source Android OS Will Free the Wireless Web." Wired. June 2008 Issue. Conde Nast Publications. New York, NY.
This feature article, printed in Wired a few months before the release of Tmobile's G1 - the first phone to run on Google's Android operating system, provides a comprehensive history of the development of Android and a summary of what's at stake and what Google hopes to accomplish with the OS. The article begins by describing the first meeting between Android founder Andy Rubin and Google cofounder Larry Page in 2005. Rubin, who had previously invented the Sidekick smartphone, had only hoped to acquire Page's moral support - even just an email saying Android was a good idea - since Page's seal of approval could help Rubin get more funding for his start-up. Yet, by the end of the meeting - and much to Rubin's surprise - Page decided he wanted to buy Android and make it a Google product.
Since that meeting, Android has gone on to gain the support of a number of major mobile industry players - including Tmobile, Sprint Nextel, Motorola and HTC - who have all named themselves part of the Open Handset Alliance and Google managed to stir up considerable buzz with its developer challenge - a contest with a prize of $10 million to anyone who could develop the best Android application. But, as the article points out, making Android work has not come without its challenges, and remains to be seen if the OS will gain the popularity that Google wants. For instance, mobile phone companies are wary of the fact that, by creating a perfect and complete mobile web surfing experience, Android could make it harder for companies to differentiate from each other. Networks would become "dumb pipes" that would merely deliver data and not play a part in building individualized mobile internet capabilities, thus making the choice between networks a matter of which one has the most towers. For this reason, Google still lacks the support of the two biggest mobile carriers: Verizon and AT&T, who together control 54% of the US market. As the article points out, Android needs their support to succeed.
The article does an excellent job of summarizing Google's strategic goals with Android as well as the potential shortcomings of the OS. Reading this article almost a year after its initial publication (and almost 6 months after the release of the G1) makes it clear just how apt it was in pinpointing the challenges to Android's market success. The article mentions how Google has a tendency to release its applications as sort of beta models, with the hopes that they can be developed and improved down the line for future success. The problem is that Google in a way took the same approach with Android, which made it a much more difficult sell based upon first impressions. Considering the sleek presentation of Apple's iPhone, the "unfinished" look and feel of Android has likely worked against the success of the OS. While success may come down the line as developers become more adept and creative with the Android code, Google's laissez faire attitude has likely slowed widespread adoption of the OS.
Gardiner, Bryan. "Google's Latest Efforts Test the Open Waters." Wired.com. November 9, 2007.
This article discusses Google's forrays into arena of open source technology and places them within the context of past open source endeavors by other companies. The most revelatory aspect of this article is the emphasis on the fact that open source technologies are not unfamiliar territory for media companies. In fact, the article describes Google's strategy with Android as a "classic move," that is, a big company taking on a collaborative project in a market where it has little presence. While, in the short term, it may seem Google has little to gain by partnering with Android, there could be huge gains in the long term. The best case scenario for Google would be dominance in the mobile market, which is currently up for grabs.
Although Google hasn't won over Verizon or AT&T, and it has some stiff competition from companies like Microsoft over domination of the mobile market, the article notes that networks would benefit from partnering with Google, since Google is known to drive data usage rates, which could in turn lead to more money for networks. Ultimately, the success or failure of Android will not be evident in the short run, since domination of the mobile market is likely to be a long process. However, even if Android does ultimately fail, it will still likely cause mobile web technology to evolve, and any impovement to mobile internet surfing is a boon for Google, meaning Google's investment in Android is essentially a win-win situation for the company.
Krazit, Tom. "Google restores tethering app for Android users outside U.S." CNET.com. April 2, 2009.
This article from technology web site CNET presents a news story about Google's pulling an application from its app market due to a violation of Tmobiles terms of service. The app, which was a tethering app - an app that can be used by Mac and PC users to gain access to the internet through their phones, was banned by Tmobile and was subsequently removed from all app markets by Google. The problem was that the terms of service violation only applied within the United States and with phones that were locked. Google quickly remedied its universal takedown by putting the app back up on app markets outside the U.S. and by restoring access for unlocked phones.
The news story is not so much notable for the tethering app in particular, but rather because it presents an instance in which Google's open access software comes into direct conflict with the network operator on which it runs. The article notes how "It appears Google's commitment to making Android a completely open operating system will be tested by the reality of how wireless carriers have traditionally controlled the applications that run on their network." This is an important point because it highlights an inherent contradiction in the ways open source software and mobile network operators function. This contradiction will likely prove to be one of Google's primary challenges in establishing Android as a widely used operating system in the mobile market.
"What is Android?." Android.com. Retrieved on April 7 from http://www.android.com/about/.
This introduction to Android, as presented by Google on the Android web site, provides a brief explanation of what Android is, with an emphasis on the capabilities and potential for innovation that the operating system provides. The introduction is written in relatively simple, non technical language, and is broken down into four sections: one describing how Android is "open," another describing the equal status among applications, another describing the breakdown of barriers between applications, and a final one describing the fast and easy development of applications.
This introduction does a good job of breaking down some of the basic capabilities of Android and it gives the reader an idea of the core philosophy behind Android. The language is mostly in layman's terms, suggesting the intro is written for a general audience. The page is notable for its lack of Google branding. Instead, the page describes Android as being developed by the Open Handset Alliance (the consortium of Android supporters gathered by Google). Although Google has been the primary player in developing Android, the decision to present Android as a product of an alliance seems to be in line with Google's attempts to market Android as a non-proprietary piece of software.