The Android-Cyanogen kerfluffle

The Android-Cyanogen kerfluffle

Summary: In the end this was an open source dispute, handled by open source developers in an open source way. Let's find a workaround. Let's find a way to get along. There ain't no one here but us chickens.

TOPICS: Google, Open Source

What began as a story of evil Google seeking a monopoly on Android apps has become a kerfluffle.

The opening shot was a cease-and-desist letter issued by Google against Steve Kondik, aka Cyanogen, Kondik was producing a modified Android ROM that included proprietary Google applications.

While Android is open source, it does support proprietary extensions. Google has provided its services, like GMail, to Android in this form.

Reaction was immediate. Google wallops Android developer was typical. Has Google shot itself in the foot was a typical question.

Indeed I was all ready to write a screed against trying to turn open source proprietary before I did the research.

First, Google has a good reason for wanting to retain control over its own services. This lets it retain legal cause against malware aimed at its servers using its software.

Second, after some hemming-and-hawing, Kondik backed down. He said he would provide a work-around so his Cyanogenmod will still work with Google applications. A group of college kids called the Open Android Alliance offered to do a purely open source Android.

There was even some action inside Google itself, with one developer considering resigning but the thinking better of it. "Let's try to move on and be constructive and talk about how we can make Android better for everyone," he concluded.

So why is this a kerfluffle? Why isn't it a scandal?

Because so far only one lawyer has made a dime off this, the Google lawyer who wrote the original letter. (And he or she is on salary -- if they hadn't written this they might have just played ping-pong on the Google dime.)

In the end this was an open source dispute, handled by open source developers in an open source way. Let's find a workaround. Let's find a way to get along. There ain't no one here but us chickens.

Topics: Google, Open Source

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  • Ok that's just plain wrong

    There's a big difference between their "services" and the code that runs on an android client that consumes those services. Adding this consuming code to android does nothing to disminish any legal rights they have over their services.

    This is a matter of the service consuming client code. Google had the choice of either providing it openly free of any restrictions or saying we've already written and debugged and tested it but screw you guys, if you want it you have to rewrite your own from scratch.

    To understand who's being honest here you have to look at it objectively. If google really wanted to make sure it's services we being used correctly as designed rather than abused even inadvertantly they would want you to use their client code that they wrote to use them optimally. Any implementation designed and built externally runs the risk of not using them optimally simply by not having googles inside information about the server side implementation.

    Or just ask them to share their thousands of internal linux bug fixes with the rest of the linux community if you really want to hear them loudly shout open source can f' off...
    Johnny Vegas
    • Thank you

      There is simply no reason they can't let this client code be redistributed. What this really boils down to is their Google Experience agreements and not wanting ROMS with their apps to end up on phones that aren't GEA. They'd be better off leaving that agreement mess alone and allowing their apps to be distributed just at the are available for PC'...for free.
      • Redistribute

        There are times when it makes sense for vendor
        applications to be open and redistributable, and
        there are times when it does not make sense. (how
        many different versions of Debian are there, and is
        there really one good version?) For instance I don't
        always give reference recommendations for people
        who ask me because their performance or lack of it
        will reflect on my credibility. Why would Google let
        someone distribute a product with Google's name on
        it, when the code it contains may not actually be
        Google's. The only way to assure the quality of a
        product with your name on it is to make and
        distribute it yourself. This is the same kind of issue
        as the Apple knock offs.
      • RE: The Android-Cyanogen kerfluffle

        And he or she is on salary if they hadnt written this they might have just played ping-pong on the Google dime.<a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> k</font></a>
  • The Day that Android Died.

    The applications that he was distributing (sort of) were applications that were already on the users phone.
    But in order to install the new rom you need to erase all and start from fresh, there is no easy way to leave them untouched on the phone, so in effect he was just re-installing the applications.

    Google handled this very poorly, they could have went to the developer in a more open and friendly manner and help come up with a solution, instead of causing problems for all of the Android Community.

    I think this has seriously damaged Google's reputation.

    I know they have certainly adjusted my "Google Experience"

    For me this is the day Android Died.
    • Baby, bath water....

      Come now, don't throw a hissy fit just because Google sent a standard C&D letter to a developer who was distributing CLOSED SOURCE applications.

      Cyanogen isn't at all phased by this (you can judge by yourself by looking him up on IRC), in fact IMHO he didn't seem to blame Google at all for this action. His only problem seemed to be how to keep the project moving forward (which he seems to have achieved).

      Blame Google all you want, but remember Google still needs to make money AND keep the mobile operators on side too. Sometimes the aims of FOSS simply don't align with the aims of the real world...
      • No but if you think about the implications...

        You find that there is now no way legally to make changes to the phone, so for all of Google's claims of being open are wrong @ this point, they currently are no better than Apple, and is some way's worse.

        You want to fix the issue with poor bluetooth support, you need to change the rom, and if you leave off the Google market application who is going to want it ???

        You want to root your phone same as above.
        Unless Google addresses this better than they currently have Android will start dying. It may be around a few years but it will pale in comparsion.
  • Problems are alot more serious than just Google

    Everything has ground to a halt since you researched this article. Why? Because of proprietary drivers from HTC & Qualcomm & others. There might have been a possibility of skirting around the Google applications issue, but now that Google served the C&D order, rom developers (Cyanogen in particular) have been given notice that the code contains both open and closed bits and blobs ... code, drivers, apps, tweaks, graphics, and who knows what else with all the different sources that contributed to the OS. One dev even noted in an online discussion that they are even unable to obtain information about Qualcomm's licensing information.

    So where does that leave everyone?
    Stuck, that's where.

    This is not the way that the G1 and Android were marketed. It was most everyone's belief that we were within our rights to do with the OS and especially our phones whatever we wanted. The complexity of the closed parts of the OS never crossed most of our minds.

    There was very little foresight into developing this OS, apparently, because to conform with every bit of the licensing, it's impossible to even change something as simple as a theme! In some instances, changing the color of part of the UI is impossible.

    Just how open is that?

    Google should be ashamed of themselves for releasing the OS in this state with Google & T-Mobile marketing it a completely different way.

    Try searching for "T-Mobile and G1" on Google. In the T-Mobile sponsored ad at the very top of the page, it proudly proclaims "".

    A bit of false advertising?
    As I read from others, I want my money back!
    • I like your post.

      It also makes me think there is a class action suit in here some where ???
    • Interesting

      The market share of Google Android phones is too miniscule relative to Apple for them to afford games like this. Thanks for writing!
  • this is M$ FUD

    created by M$ agents trying to highjack Android to use bing, hotmail and other M$ crappy services.
    The community should stand together against M$ atempts to capitalize on the hard work of Google.
    Linux Geek
    • What?

      Where the hell does Microsoft come into this article? (and yes,I used the propper name of the corporation, not M-dollar sign).

      I think your tin hat is too tight. Might want to loosen it up a bit to let some blood in.

      I am an Android owner and love it. It did buy it as a product to just work though, with no desire to hack the crap out of it. I don't need another hobby. Just a working PDA. Because of this, casting negative opinions on the OS just because soemone can't do what they want with it is moot for me.
      • huh...???

        I did not criticized Android.
        I called out the M$ knock off and its $hill who is trying to polute Android with proprietary crap.
        Linux Geek
      • You should reconsider this statement...

        "Because of this, casting negative opinions on the OS just because soemone can't do what they want with it is moot for me. "

        This negative attention will drive away application developers also, who wants to spend their time developing an Application and then be told you can not distribute the app for some lame excuse.

        Take the example

        Seat belt law in Michigan they pass it but you can only get a ticket if they pull you over for something else. Now a couple of years later they change the law and they can ticket for not having your seat belt on.
        Now we have Police (3-5 Patrol cars) working on catching those law breakers not wearing their seat belt. I know 3-5 patrol cars does not sound like much
        but in the city I am talking that is half of the shift. Guess the rest of the city goes unprotected

        See it started out innocently enough but know cities use it as a tool to write tickets to make money, this is not about protecting the citizens.
  • Google is NOT a friend to Open Source

    ..They just spent a lot of years trying to appear like good Open Source community members. In reality, they have been very good at taking the best Open Source technology and incorporating it into their own proprietary offerings and refusing to share their improvements with others.

    I shudder every time someone uses Google as an example of the innovation that is driven by Open Source - in reality, Google is to Open Source what an unemployed 30-year old is to his parents' basement.
    • baseless attacks

      Google is one of the best friends of OSS.
      They give money to FOSS developers not legal threats like M$.
      In return FOSS is expected to follow Google guidance when dealing with Google services.
      Linux Geek
      • baseless defense

        I would say that Google gives about as much money to FOSS as Microsoft gives source code. Sure, they both purport to support it, but only as far as those FOSS projects produce code that Google can use in their own software.

        Where is the Open Source Google search code? Where are the bug fixes and improvements to MySQL and Linux on which Google bases their infrastructure (no, MySQL out of the box does NOT run Google - there are major improvements to it which you and I only get to enjoy at the other end of a web browser).

        At least Microsoft is honest about how far they support Open Source initiatives. Google, not so much so.
  • Sign the petition
    • is that a M$ sponsored site?

      just ignore the $hills badmouthing google
      Linux Geek
    • more powerful than a petition just walking away. There are lots of open source alternatives to Android out there. This competition is the best protection against abuse, or perceived abuse.