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Toward a freer Android

Oct 20, 2009, 15:02 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jonathan Corbet)


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"The dust has mostly settled after Google's shutdown of the Cyanogen build for Android phones. Nobody can really dispute Google's core claim that Cyanogen was redistributing proprietary software in ways not allowed by the license. But numerous people have disputed Google's good sense; those applications are freely downloadable elsewhere and can only run on phones which already shipped with a copy. So shutting down their redistribution does Google little (if any) good, but it has had a harsh chilling effect over the enthusiastic communities that were promoting Android and trying to make it better. Now those communities are trying to regroup and continue their work, but the rules of the game have changed.

"The most community-friendly representative within Google has long been Jean-Baptiste Queru; he clearly puts quite a bit of time into helping other developers work with Android. He is now at the center of an effort to turn Google's "Android Open Source Project" (AOSP) into something deserving of that name. Jean-Baptiste has (belatedly, one might say) figured out one of the major obstacles to contributing to the platform: the difficulty of actually running one's changes.

"The primary target form factor for Android is a phone. That means that, deep inside, a fundamental part of allowing writers to play their part is to allow the Android Open-Source Project to be used on phones. And, by that, I don't just mean that it needs to compile and boot, i mean that it has to be usable as a day-to-day phone. Right now, it's not. The range of applications is too limited, the applications that are in there don't all work, and there are quite a few system glitches along the way."

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