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Android: the return of the Unix wars?

Sep 03, 2010, 21:36 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jonathan Corbet)

"Your editor was recently amused to encounter this ZDNet article on "Android's dirty little secret." According to that article, the openness of Android has led to an increase in the control held by handset manufacturers and wireless carriers and the fragmentation of the platform. The Open Handset Alliance is in a "shambles," and Android phones have undone all the gains won by that great standard bearer for openness and freedom - the iPhone. One might easily conclude that Android is just business as usual for the mobile telephony industry, but there are a few things worth contemplating here.

"The authors seem surprised by the fact that the Open Handset Alliance is not functioning like a free software project, and that manufacturers are not feeding their changes back into the common software core. That is very much true; very little code from HTC, Samsung, or Motorola (for example) can be found in the Android distribution. This outcome is unsurprising, though, for a number of reasons.

"The first of those, quite simply, is that Android is still not run like a free software project. Work is done behind closed doors at Google, with the code being "dropped" into the public repository on occasion. It is not uncommon for the code to show up some time after the software starts shipping on handsets. Outsiders have little visibility into what is going on and little say over the direction of Android development; there is no easy way (or incentive) for them to contribute back."

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