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 afterdawn.com 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.
Symbian vs. Android
The Symbian OS is the leading smartphone OS in terms of market share, but Android is looking quite strong, according to analyst reports. Some reports have Android coming in second to Symbian as early as 2012. According to Gartner, Android’s share will be at 18 percent of all smartphones sold globally in 2012, or about 94 million users out of 525 million, said GigaOM.
In his keynote at the Symbian Exchange & Exposition (SEE 2009) here on October 27, Williams did not single out Google specifically by name, but he did take a few generic shots, saying: “I’ve heard other companies stand up and say they have the world’s most powerful operating system. I think they’re wrong. … If it took me six months to add cut and paste, I’d be embarrassed.”
Williams went on to give the audience a bit of the upcoming road map with the Symbian 3 and Symbian 4 platforms.
Meanwhile, during a Nokia Media Day event here, Shaun Puckrin, head of developer services at the Symbian Foundation, said Symbian represents “the biggest market available to developers. We outship our next competitor by two.”
Added Puckrin: “Sure Android is open source, but we are a community that adopts things from the actual developer community; that’s a difference. … Whilst Android is open source, it’s been difficult to get changes into the OS. But we’re attempting to get to a genuine open-source project. I think the proof will be in the pudding.”
Moreover, Puckrin said that, though Android is an open-source project, “it’s more about using open source than being open source.”
John Forsyth, a member of the Symbian Foundation leadership team who is responsible for technology and delivery management, echoed Puckrin and Williams. “With Android you can’t get a road map,” he said. “We have an entirely transparent process from that perspective. You can go to our site and see every feature that is being planned. With Android, the real source sits behind the Google firewall.”
For his part, Forsyth noted, “There’s a halo effect people try to get out of open source without actually playing by the rules. You almost get a grudging respect for Microsoft when you see this kind of thing.”
Puckrin said he believes proof of Symbian’s seriousness about open source is its move to open-source the operating system kernel. “We concentrated on the kernel, which is the crown jewel of the platform,” he said. “It set a benchmark and it says we’re serious about this.” Both Puckrin and Forsyth added that because Symbian has successfully open-sourced the kernel of the Symbian OS, the rest of the platform will follow easily and the organization will meet its planned schedule of having the entire platform open-sourced by the second half of 2010.
“While Lee [Williams] has his personal opinion, I think how Google acts in general is open source,” Forsyth said.
Meanwhile, Forsyth questioned the Android architecture itself.