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.
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. "Open Source Software Made Developers Cool. Now It Can Make Them Rich." Wired. March 2008. Conde Nast Publications.
This article from Wired highlights how open source software can be commercially viable, even though the development of it isn't based directly on monetary compensation. As the article states, 30 open source sotware companies were bought for more than $1 billion in 2007, which is double the number of sales from 2005. One reason for this commercial interest in open source software is that such software has proven particularly well-developed in the past. Linux, for instance, is a more stable operating system than Windows, and Mozilla Firefox is a highly popular open source web browser.
The article also points out the main ways open source software manages to make money: "The money comes from selling add-ons, service contracts, and hardware to go with the software." The examples presented in this article show how open source software can be a commercially viable business endeavor - a fact that goes against the original free software movement from which open source software is derived. Such evidence supports Google's strategic interest in developing its own open source software for the mobile market with Android and also shows how open source software can prove successful in seemingly incompatible environments (for example, the article describes how open source software has recently been used to set up trading platforms for hedge funds, which are "notoriously insistent on proprietary systems).
Lerner, Josh and Jean Triole. "Some Simple Economics of Open Source." The Journal of Industrial Economics. Vol. 50, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 197-234. Blackwell Publishing.
This article from The Journal of Industrial Economics surveys some of the basic economics of the open source software model. The article begins by noting how open source practices have in fact existed in the realm of software development for several decades, but that the practice of open source software development has grown more concretized and widespread due to the rise of the Internet (to demonstrate this, the article provides a brief history of software development from the 70s to present day). The article then goes on to examine several case studies involving specific products of open source software development, specifically Apache, Linux, Perl and Sendmail.
Perhaps one of the more unique aspects of the article is the close examination of the motivation for developers to work with open source rather than closed source software. The authors identify several types of incentives that they hypothesize lure developers to the open source model. Such incentives include career concern incentive and the ego gratification incentive. Both of these incentives are categorized in economic terms as what's called a signalling incentive. The authors list several conditions under which signalling incentives are strengthened, and all of these conditions appear to be present within the open source model. For example, the ego gratification incentive is in part fulfilled by peer recognition. The open source model strengthens this incentive because the development process is transparent, meaning all changes to source codes are tracked and tied to specific developers, thus allowing for a high level of peer recognition.
While this article may ultimately pose more questions than it answers, it marks a necessary step towards closer examination of the open source model. By examining the model from an economic perspective, the article is helping to systematize and deconstruct the motivations and human behaviors that govern the ways in which open source development operates.
"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.