The Android opportunity is an open source challenge

The Android opportunity is an open source challenge

Summary: Free carrier phones are as bad a deal as rent-to-own. There is opportunity here for entrepreneurs.

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If open source has a weakness, it's the channel.

Because open source software can be downloaded free, marketing costs are driven out, and thus there are few effective sales channels for open source software. Those who want to license code usually deal directly with the company providing the support.

It's a feature which is proving to be a bug in the case of Android, the Google-derived Linux for mobile phones.

There is a channel for smart phones, but it's one dominated by carriers, who have no interested in giving fair, unbiased service. Instead these companies, and their resellers, have every incentive to force users to buy their branded services, at whatever price they choose to charge.

The name for this is crapware, and users can't get rid of it without rootkitting their phones, essentially erasing the phone company operating system and voiding their warranty.

Advocates of the carriers note, correctly, that they subsidize purchase of the phones. A smart phone without a calling plan costs about $500, one with a calling plan $200. A basic calling plan may cost $50/month, so over time a buyer pays $1,400 for something that retailed for $500.

It's as bad a deal as Rent to Own.

It can also be an opportunity.

Look, rootkitting is legal. It was proclaimed legal by the Librarian of Congress this summer. If you want to support your own phone there is nothing to stop you.

The same is true if someone else wants to support it.

There are lots of opportunities here. Corporate accounts spring to mind. Would not many employers prefer that they control their employees' devices, rather than the carriers?

And then there's an individual market. Once consumers understand the economics, once they know that buying a phone and a third party support contract costs less than what the phone companies charge for "free," they should be receptive.

The way you make them receptive is marketing.

Over the next year, Super WiFi systems will make wireless Internet signals available in many more places than they are now. Networks of hot spot owners, like Boingo, could effectively become carriers and work with their own re-sellers to support devices.

If Google is even minimally cooperative, taking Super WiFi signals over their own fiber network, acting as a competitive ISP in bulk deals, a market can be built.

There are lots of Americans looking for opportunity right now. Unemployment remains high. How about if open source gives it to them? Make Android a real brand.

Topics: Software, Open Source

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  • As usual, great food for thought

    [i]"...The name for this is crapware, and users can?t get rid of it without rootkitting their phones, essentially erasing the phone company operating system and voiding their warranty."[/i]

    Sometimes (..just sometimes, mind you) extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. This is a catch cry (cliche) i've heard alot surrrounding the very subject of jailbreaking / rooting.

    There are those that would say taking drastic measures like jailbreaking / rooting a phone would be the height of stupidity. Equally, there are those that openly and staunchly advocate taking a device back to its raw state and starting afresh (proviso: you have the prerequisite skill-set which enables you to configure a device in that state). Then there are those that simply and apathetically say [i]"..the carriers? crapware? ... well if that's the way it is .. than that's just the way it is."[/i]

    ... I, of course, couldn't possibly comment.

    [i]"..If Google is even minimally cooperative, taking Super WiFi signals over their own fiber network, acting as a competitive ISP in bulk deals, a market can be built."[/i]

    Great idea .. you'd have to hope they don't get litigation from the existing group of large providers *even if* they were able to successfully launch such a huge project. I'm sure you (Dana) can see that going into the ISP business could potentially open Google to an anti-trust suit (..or ten). I'm not saying that it would happen given the hypothetical situation you've suggested .. it's just i don't know the existing laws surrounding this enough to be able to say otherwise.

    [i]"...How about if open source gives it to them? Make Android a real brand."[/i]

    Again, so that eventually another multi-national can stir up another round of red-herring, patent suits against the works of the "new breed" of Android developers? Please excuse my cynicism but, really .. i can see the same old scenarios playing out. Adding fuel to that fire, the fact Google is already in current litigation over claims of patent infringement with Oracle (.. and "others").

    Dana, you've provided some brilliant, Utopian ideals for Google, but with all due respect i just think the timing for these ideas is off. That's to say, if i had to hazard a guess .. i'd say Google's going to be more than just a little gun shy .. ergo .. new business fields would have to be a back-burner consideration given recent politics.

    The key points have been flogged to death .. but let's just re-cap / make mental notes:

    biggest enemies here = crapware pushing providers AND existing, s@#tty patent laws.


    With due Respect & Appreciation.
    thx-1138_
  • Could a "purist provider" come to the fore?

    We know that if want a straight-forward Linux which stays close to Free software ideals, Debian is a likely choice. In an analagous way, suppose a 3G/4G infrastructure operator was to offer a purist, stable Android release for a couple of the most popular models, with software updates and patching available. Would this perhaps become the most popular provider? They WOULD still need to jail-lock the phones to their Service, but nevertheless it might be much better than the crapware alternatives. Maybe the companies are missing a trick.
    peter_erskine@...
    • Catch 22

      @peter_erskine

      Isn't it the crapware (paid) that is an extra revenue stream for the providers? So that leaves the provider having to decide between income from paying, crapware developers versus offering blank-slate, raw, Androids .. with decreased revenue streams.

      I like what you're saying in principle, and couldn't agree more .. but you understand the hypothetical, financial conundrum such a provider would have to ponder, don't you?

      .. and therein is the whole problem to the answer.
      thx-1138_
  • RE: The Android opportunity is an open source challenge

    There are those that would say taking drastic measures like jailbreaking / rooting a phone would be the height of stupidity. Equally, there are those that openly and staunchly advocate taking a device back to its raw state and starting afresh (proviso: you have the prerequisite skill-set which enables you to configure a device in that state). Then there are those that simply and apathetically say "..the carriers? crapware? ... well if that's the way it is .. than that's just the way it is."
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    ... I, of course, couldn't possibly comment.

    "..If Google is even minimally cooperative, taking Super WiFi signals over their own fiber network, acting as a competitive ISP in bulk deals, a market can be built."

    Great idea .. you'd have to hope they don't get litigation from the existing group of large providers *even if* they were able to successfully launch such a huge project. I'm sure you (Dana) can see that going into the ISP business could potentially open Google to an anti-trust suit (..or ten). I'm not saying<a href="http://www.kolcularltd.com">Hava Perdeleri</a>
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    <a href="http://www.estilomuhendislik.com">Hava Perdeleri</a> that it would happen given the hypothetical situation you've suggested .. it's just i don't know the existing laws surrounding this enough to be able to say otherwise.
    seocu