Google Conflicted

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-09-28 Print this article Print


Google 'Conflicted'

Meanwhile, Brian Gupta, a New York Android developer and engineer at Brandorr Group, told eWEEK, "I am certain that Google is conflicted about the whole thing. On one hand, the folks working on Android truly appreciate the uptake by the hacker and modding community, and are working to figure out how to accommodate their needs. On the other hand, technically the Cyanogen mods did include proprietary binary code from a number of sources, including Google and HTC, and were being redistributed without a distribution license."

Added Gupta:

"My guess is that Google has known for some time what was going on, but probably thought 'best not to upset the apple cart' while Android was in its infancy, with only one or two devices from a single manufacturer available on a single carrier. Now that we are on the verge of Android devices being shipped from at least five hardware vendors with over half a dozen carriers, Google probably felt that they needed to get a handle on this. I sense they feared things getting out of control with modders doing willy-nilly ports of innovations from one vendor/carrier to another-e.g., Motoblur on HTC devices and HTC Sense on Motorola devices. I think Google's legal team had a strong part in what took place, and forced action."

Gupta also said he believes that Google needed to engage the community before sending out the cease-and-desist order. "They hadn't made their position clear and depending on your point of view seemed to tacitly be condoning what was going on," he said. "Going forward, I really do think they need to work out a policy that allows people to rebundle the apps that come with a device and release blessed custom firmware for that same device."

"All in all," Gupta said, "it seems that this is a serious setback, but not large enough of one to stop the momentum that Android has built to this point."

Gupta is optimistic:

"At this point, I really don't want to see what is truly the most promising open mobile platform crash and burn, just as it is about to take off. That said, now that Google has rebooted the community, I think that people are retooling and refocusing on actually making the open-source promise of Android a reality. JBQ, a Google developer, kicked off an informal project to make the open-source build of Android actually useful out of the box."

Meanwhile, in a Sept 27 post responding to Google's cease-and-desist move, the CyanogenMod site said:

"The issue that's raised is the redistribution of Google's proprietary applications like Maps, GTalk, Market, and YouTube. These 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. 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?"

In addition, "There are lots of things we can do as end users and modders, though, without violating anyone's rights," the Cyanogen blog said. "Most importantly, we are entitled to back up our software. Since I don't work with any of these closed source applications directly, what I intend to do is simply ship the next version of CyanogenMod as a 'bare bones' ROM. You'll be able to make calls, MMS, take photos, etc. In order to get our beloved Google sync and applications back, you'll need to make a backup first. I'm working on an application that will do this for you." 

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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