Is Google Faking the Open-Source Funk?

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-10-28 Print this article Print

Some folks are claiming that Google is faking the open-source funk by not being as open as it could be about Android.

LONDON-Some folks are claiming that Google is faking the open-source funk.

OK, it's a lot to say, really. Because for all the open-source software Google has helped put forth, it's a bit of a stretch to imply that the company is faking it. But Lee Williams, executive director of the Symbian Foundation, which is in charge of advancing the development and the open-sourcing of the Symbian OS, has basically called Google out for not being as open as the company could be about its Android operating system.

It's not the first time and it won't be the last that Google's been knocked about its policies regarding openness of certain technologies or strategies-policies, by the way, that certain other companies (like Microsoft!) would be blasted for straightaway.

In basketball we had the Jordan Rules, which initially was a term used to describe the strategy some teams applied to aggressively and physically guard Michael Jordan. But later it became what people called the preferential treatment the superstar received from refs who swallowed their whistles whenever Jordan traveled or fouled someone-especially late in close games. In football we have the Brady Rule, which was enacted this season to protect quarterbacks' knees after superstar QB Tom Brady went down for most of last season following a hit to his knee (and, unfortunately, applied in a tight game against my Ravens). And in tech we seem to have the Google Rules, where Google just seems to get pass after pass for stuff others would be called on.

This isn't to diminish the tremendous capability of any of the subjects of these rules. They're all winners and fierce competitors without them, but let's just say the rules help. They're like a little reward for being so good and so valuable to the game.

In an interview with GigaOM, Williams called Google "evil" and called for the search giant to be more transparent about Android. And it's not just Williams, but some of his crew that also are banging on Google to open up.

In the GigaOM interview, Williams nailed Google for fragmenting the market and for attempting to "cookie" users.

An analysis of the exchange said:

"First and foremost the goal of a Google system would be to create a situation where you have information about the user and the use of those apps," said Williams.

"Secondarily," he added, "it would be to cookie them, so that you get that unique identifier association with the data you've collected on the individual's habits, routines, and so on and so forth so that you can target apps toward them. So you can build more intelligent cloud-based apps for them."

In that same interview, Williams called Apple "greedy" and questioned why Google would even need to mention not being evil in its motto.

Sounds like an old-fashioned Parliament Funkadelic call-out for Google to "Give Up the Funk" or to come clean or "come correct." Or is Williams just "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing," as James Brown said?

It's clear Williams is doing a little more than just talking smack. Indeed, the points Williams raises are not new, and he is not alone in thinking and saying this. But he is alone in being at the helm of a very large ship that sees a fast-moving Android OS gathering steam in its wake. And rather than sit idly by, Williams is calling them out sooner rather than later.

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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