The maker of CyanogenMod, a modified version of Google's Android mobile operating system, is to distribute the product without proprietary Google Apps included.
The shift in strategy follows a cease-and-desist letter from Google. Google complained that, while Android itself is open source and therefore entirely compatible with modification by anyone, its own Android applications — such as Google Mail, Google Talk, Google Maps, YouTube and the Android Marketplace app — are not.
News of the letter sparked an angry response from many in the Android developer community. The CyanogenMod ROM has been praised for being faster than the official Android ROM, and many feared the project and others like it might be shut down.
Google posted a blog on Friday, in which it did not mention CyanogenMod by name, but said "unauthorised distribution of [the closed-source apps] harms us just like it would any other business, even if it's done with the best of intentions".
"We always love seeing novel uses of Android, including custom Android builds from developers who see a need," Google's Dan Morrill added in the blog post.
Cyanogen then posted a blog on Sunday, acknowledging that the apps are "not part of the open source project and are only part of 'Google Experience' devices".
"They are Google's intellectual property and I intend to respect that," the post read. "I will no longer be distributing these applications as part of CyanogenMod. But it's OK. None of the go-fast stuff that I do involves any of this stuff anyway. We need these applications though, because we all rely so heavily on their functionality."
"I'd love for Google to hand over the keys to the kingdom and let us all have it for free, but that's not going to happen. And who can blame them?"
Cyanogen said the next version of CyanogenMod would ship as a "bare bones ROM", and the team was working on an application to help users back up the Google Apps that came with their Android handsets, so the apps can be reinstalled on the modified ROM.
"The idea is that you’ll be able to Google-ify your CyanogenMod installation, with the applications and files that shipped on YOUR device already," the blog post read. "Or, you can just use the basic ROM if you want. It will be perfectly functional if you don't use the Google parts. I will include an alternative app store (SlideMe, or AndAppStore, not decided yet) with the basic ROM so that you can get your applications in case you don’t have a Google Experience device."