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Android Chief Andy Rubin Sends His First Tweet — And It’s Aimed At Steve Jobs (techcrunch.com)
87 points by tzury 2407 days ago | hide | past | web | 111 comments | favorite



That's all great and witty and so on.

But his pseudo-definition of "free" is rather misleading. I don't think Jobs argues that Android isn't free in the sense of being closed-source, or being sold for money, or not being available on most devices. It is. I know that I can compile it right now, from my command line. I know that I wouldn't have to spend any money. I know that, with enough tinkering, I can put it on my iPhone or whatever.

In the real world, on the other hand, this free Android doesn't exist. When I buy a Samsung or HTC or Motorola Android phone, I don't get plain vanilla Android - I get a distorted version full of crap and software I neither need nor want. In the real world, Android is almost never the pure version Rubin wants it to be. It's a weird hybrid, coerced into submission by Verizon, Motorola and friends. The jailbreak community for Android is as large as the one for the iPhone, meaning that in a very import sense, real-world Android is about as open as iOS and webOS.

I don't care about theoretical openness. That's just rhetorics. Jobs merely points that out.


Let me put it this way:

With an iPhone you've got a shiny device that just works and doesn't come with shit installed and that you cannot tinker with.

With an Android you've got a shiny device that many times comes with shit installed and that you cannot tinker with (depending on the manufacturer).

The difference: you can build your own unlocked Android device, and because of competition there will be phone manufacturers that will do just that.

Windows PCs aren't locked, and this came to be mostly due to harsh competition, or am I missing something? Don't you think the likes of Compaq/HP would've rather sold locked devices akin to gaming consoles (also popular at that time)?

You're saying it is "theoretical openness"; I'm saying the market is too young for Android's openness to unravel.


> you can build your own unlocked Android device, and because of competition there will be phone manufacturers that will do just that.

Wrong. Because handsets are subsidized by the carriers and won't sell otherwise -- so all that competition is equally focused on pleasing the carrier as they are on pleasing the customer. Besides, it's been pointed out many times to me here that the majority of consumers don't care if the platform is open.


> Because handsets are subsidized by the carriers and won't sell otherwise

In the United States. I saw an iPhone sitting in a glass case here for 600 Euro the other day.


You can buy unlocked phones in the states, as well, but they obviously bring a much higher up-front cost. It doesn't change the fact that manufacturers want their phones to be subsidized by the carriers in the US. They're not going to build a separate "more open" version for the rest of the world because it's simply not worth it.


You would be surprised. They are already building separate models for North America (so it is not separate for rest of the world, but separate for NA!).


Just because Apple makes it, doesn't mean it's not shit. I invite you to try and remove their shitty stock app, or weather app or any of the other numerous shitty little apps the iPhone comes with.


They might be basic, but I think the stock iPhone apps are a long way from being shitty in the same sense as Sprint's bundled NASCAR app.


Is this just a class thing? What does the NASCAR app do that's so objectional except be possibly unwanted by the kind of person who doesn't object to a stocks app.

I'm not in the US, but the fact that no-one even bothers to advance any actual reason for not wanting it beyond it being "NASCAR" leads me to assume it's plain old snobbery.


I just drag those into a folder on the last page of apps.


It's not about theoretical openness, but whether the manufacturer you bought your phone from passes Android's openness on to you, their customer. Most (all?) of the successful ones (HTC, Samsung, Motorola) don't.

Since Android is Apache-licensed, the openness isn't enforced to all users of the software.


That's obviously not the point Jobs is going after. He'd be silly to do so. The warped, personalized, differentiated Android variants is exactly why Android is taking off.


This is beneficial for the phone companies only, not for the customers.

And that is what Jobs is getting at. He want to make the best possible experience for the customers not create a fragmented ecosystem that allows anyone to make a version of how they see Android.


A fragmented ecosystem is also a competitive one: how can you argue that this doesn't benefit the customers is beyond my comprehension.


Fragmentation kills. Too many versions to support, too few resources, risk of targeting the wrong version (newest) etc. etc.



TweetDeck's launch stats show that this weak argument against fragmentation simply doesn't stand up.


Competition isn't intrinsically beneficial. Within the Android ecosystem, all you get is pseudo-competition: none of the players are interested in making Android any more open than it has to be.


That depends on market forces that change by definition and it is definitely not a rule.

Android gives the possibility of building unlocked phones ... from there it's just an issue of customer-demand.

If only one manufacturer, like HTC or maybe Samsung, has success with an unlocked phone, the others will start replicating the recipe.


It's not about customer-demand, it's about big enterprise logic.


Big enterprise logic changes the same way, as cash flow changes. It is called "vote with your wallet" for a reason.


It doesn't change the way you seem to be assuming.

Big enterprise havs cash cows and until those cash cows are gone they will be making all sorts of ego driven decisions.

You would be surprised how much is driven by individuals and how little is driven by rationality.

There are states within the states with their own motives.

It is my experience that besides with the cash cows, it's anything but rational decisions that are being made in most cases.


> You would be surprised how much is driven by individuals and how little is driven by rationality.

Oh, I wouldn't, I see it every day. Thank god for consultants, you can bring them in, and they will say the obvious/rational thing.


Well then you know that enterprise logic far from always are rational.


I'm not seeing HP or Dell selling locked Windows PCs on which you cannot install Linux.


Let's get straight on what we are discussing here.

We are talking normal consumers no hackers.

No one beside a small fraction of this world cares what operating system they have or can have. They change OS when they buy a new computer.


Trusted Computing (this shit Apple is doing right now with the iTunes store and iOS) was dismissed by consumers and by hardware manufacturers (besides Intel).

Normal people don't care for their OS, but they care about installing whatever they want on their PC, no matter the source or function.

And you know what? All the friends I have with non-technical skills that own a gaming consoles (about a dozen of them) ... have had those consoles unlocked.

The reason gaming consoles come locked is piracy, since most profits come from selling games. This is not the same situation with PCs or with phones for that matter.


Trusted Computing (this shit Apple is doing right now with the iTunes store and iOS) was dismissed by consumers and by hardware manufacturers (besides Intel).

You're seriously wrong here. I mean, this statement alone makes me think you have no idea what you're talking about. Care to clarify what you meant by that? Or even what you meant by Trusted Computing (because your current definition is definitely incorrect).


I hope you are just joking.

Dismissed as reflected in what? Apples latest quarterly results? Their overall success?

How has the consumer dismissed trusted computing.

Normal people don't install things. It's really as simple as that.

Before the iphone most people didn't even know what an app was.


Trusted Computing is a technology that was promoted by the Trusted Computing Group (IBM, Intel, Microsoft, HP, big enough for you?).

Over 90% of PCs are Wintel. Apple's market is a niche.

Apple's shit I'm talking about is similar, but different: we aren't talking about over 1 billion people (more like 50 million).

> Normal people don't install things

You're the one that must be joking.


You seem to have forgotten completely what this discussion is all about. When you can put the trolling behind you perhaps you can explain to me since when market size is an indicator of best product.

And no I am not joking. Most people use the browser and that is really it. This is why many people think that Google is their browser.


You simply ask yourself this question

What would be best.

If the customer had to go to three different app stores to get what they want or just one.

A fragmented ecosystem can never be a benefit to consumer as it hinders the free flow of information and increases friction.

I did a longer post about digital ecosystems if you are interested

http://000fff.org/the-power-of-digital-ecoystems/


Is it a big drain on your life to decide, where to do your (physical) shopping?

With apps stores, it is the same. You can have your favourite shop, where you do your shopping most of the time. But you have an option to change. Which is important, because the shop owner is also aware of this. As a result, he will not trying to f*ck you so hard, as he would, if you didn't have this option. (If you are locked in and the conditions change to worse, what are you going to do? Accept and submit, that's what.)


I don't understand your reasoning here.

If I have an android I have to go to different app stores to get different apps.

With apple I just have one store where I can get all my apps no matter what telco I am on. That is the benefit of the integrated approach.

I have yet to see how apple is exploiting customers. They aren't setting the price, they are allowing free apps.

Aren't you confusing being a developer with being a customer?


> If I have an android I have to go to different app stores to get different apps.

No. On Android, you can get most apps in most stores. Some stores are more popular than other (have more customers and more apps). As for now, the most popular is Google Market.

On Apple, you must go through store. Even if you have .ipa on you harddrive, you must go through store.

Apple sets conditions, what an app can and cannot do. Would you accept similar scheme for your computer?

In most businesses, sole supplier is a no-no (if you ever forget, your risk auditors will remind you). There is a reason for that, believing in benevolent dictatorship will get you nowhere.


Take on your consumer hat instead of your developer/hacker hat.

Setting conditions to streamline and create consistency is good for the consumer not bad.

No one is forcing people to buy apple products. If you want you can just choose android or Nokia. But people want the iphone because it's easy.

Apple isn't sole supplier I don't know why this strawmen keeps getting thrown around.


Why is it that everyone thinks that Android is "hard"?

I think a point that most people are missing is that Android isn't actually hard at all. With the newer devices, we are seeing better and better interfaces. The reason many people think iPhone is better is because the marketing comes from one direction, rather than the diffuse marketing from Android. So iPhone gets cast in a better light. In reality? Not a huge difference.

I do agree that consistency is good for the customer. But so is direct competition and choice. I think what will decide who dominates in the (far) future is which hardware people will develop more for and I can see either one being on top.


There is direct competitions. Between android and apple. The discussion resembles around what is best for the end consumer. And it's my view it the integrated approach is better than a fragmented one when we are talking about the same product


And why is that? What facts directly support that opinion?

I think that if that was the case, there wouldn't be an immediate discussion following Jobs' comment on the same thing. If anything, I think the fact that these remarks have made it all the way to this discussion proves that it isn't such a clear-cut answer.

In fact in many areas I'd disagree with the statement that integrated is better. While in some cases simplicity is great, what the hell is the difference between a store with 170,000 applications versus 90,000? If you're saying that the average consumer can tell the difference, I'd call BS. If you're talking about an above-average user, then the issue is moot because they will know how to get the applications they need without hassle anyway.

Not only that, but fragmentation in itself has many levels. Yeah, everyone that codes iPhone applications has to use (somewhat) similar tools and API. However, what's the main draw for an app-maker? If anything, I think what platform a developer writes for has a lot more to do with his previous experience than the current dominant or integrated platform.

Don't distance the developer from this. Consumers and developers, especially in these kinds of micro-transactions, are intimately tied. Things that affect developers DIRECTLY affect consumers, and I don't think it's so easy to draw the line.


What fact?

The fact that apple have the most popular ecosystem out there with nothing even close.

The fact that everyone knows how to install an app on the iphone.

The fact that the iPhone helped introduce the idea of an application to the general consumer.

The fact that the iPhone just works and is consistently thought through, the UI is easy to use.

The fact that apple not anyone else solved the GUI for touch screens.

iPod, iPhone, iPad what can I say they all resolve around the most lucrative ecoystem that exist besides the internet itself.

The fact that when you want to write for iPhone you write one an distribute to all devices.

Want to write for Android? Good luck. Ask Tweetdeck how many versions they had to develop to get out on as many android versions as possible.

I am not even talking about the number of apps that each store have.

I am talking about the in my mind pretty simple fact that an android with only one market and one system to develop to is better for both the the consumer and developer than 3 different markets and who knows how many permutations of the android platform that exist out there today.


I'm not going to address this point-by-point, because very little of it has to do with ease-of-use for either the consumer or the developer.

I'll give you this - writing for iPhone is certainly easier in the sense that you only have to write for one (maybe two) software versions. However, take a look at Tweetdeck's later response to the comments : that they had a team of TWO to deal with versioning. Sure, it's a bit of a hassle, but there are always trade-offs.

That's also not the only consideration. There are many factors - App pricing, prior programming experience, target market, etc. that play into making an application. Not only that, having one market and one system is not necessarily better, and it's definitely not a fact.

It comes back to the issue of competition; I'm not talking about Android vs. iPhone; I mean the competition between developers in putting out applications that are meaningful and easy to use. Neither system (right now) is inherently better, and I think that casting it in the light of integration vs. fragmentation turns the spotlight in the wrong direction.


Want to write for Android? Good luck. Ask Tweetdeck how many versions they had to develop to get out on as many android versions as possible.

Yes, why don't you ask them: http://twitter.com/iaindodsworth/status/27813709366


     If the customer had to go to three different app stores 
     to get what they want or just one.
Personally I go to Google and type "best free iPhone apps", and I also ask friends for their preferences.

I also have one mall where I make all my shopping and one phone carrier that provides me with what I need.

BUT I CHANGED my phone carrier twice in the last 5 years, and I ended up with one that has better contractual terms and lower prices.


You are not answering the question.

It's not about finding iphone apps but about having to have your credit card info in one store (iphone) vs. having it a different app stores (android)

With regards to changing your phone carrier that actually just proves my point.

With apple telcos can't make their own app store with android they can.

In other words, androids ecosystem will be fragmented, I will have to be a verizon customer or a Amazon customer or a t-mobile customer.

You don't have that problem with Apples app store. And that is the reason why it's better for the customer.


Bullshit ... if multiple marketplaces happen, it is only because Google won't /doesn't manage to build a good enough marketplace in the first place, which proves my point.

You've also probably been spoiled by the country you live in, but I used to live under a communist system where there was no such thing as consumer choice and competition.

YES, it makes people unhappy to make choices (I've seen the switch in mentality on a large-scale). But it makes their lives better, since a free marketplace that allows choice is driven by natural-selection, with trends like lower and lower prices, better and better service.

That's called a paradox and you're not seeing the forest from the trees, or you're just some shill.


How does that prove your point?

My claim was that multiple app stores isn't a benefit for the consumer. You still haven't told me how that is a benefit to the customer. What is better about the multiple app stores that sells android apps and then the app store from apple.

Pray tell. How is that better today? From a consumers point of view? Is it more expensive? More tedious? So far your sole argument is confusing communism with consumerism.


Maybe the alternate store has a better presentation of apps (I find App Brainz on Android easier to browse than the default marketplace app). Maybe I want to see an app store that's filtered out all the porn, maybe I want to see one that only has porn in it.

The I think rather than open vs. free, Android and iPhone could better be compared by choice vs. simplicity. Android gives you choice on just about every bit of the phone (new marketplace, new home screen, new soft keyboard -- all without rooting) whereas on the iPhone it's Steve's way or the high way.

Now Steve's way is pretty damn good and it benefits a ton from the simplicity of not having choices, but it's not really possible to make a "best" choice for everyone, and Android can really hit a wider range of tastes. Whether any of the manufacturers/networks are doing that well now is very debatable.


You really think that only one market is better for the consumer? Do you think this is a universal principle?

Also, how the ability to discover apps is not part of the market, having my credit card in only one store is much less important to me than finding good apps. In fact if one store allowed me to use paypal instead of a credit card I would probably use that store.


Why are you all confusing market for market place?

No one is talking about only one market.


The customer has been able to install "apps" on ANY pre-iPhone device from ANYWHERE. They know how that works and they didn't mind the freedom at all. Sure J2ME apps sometimes suck, but you could get them anywhere, not from a single app store.


>This is beneficial for the phone companies only, not for the customers.

I have a number of top notch companies fighting for my attention and purchases, all of them generally on a common "app level": None have the comfort of sitting back, cocky that you'll have to choose them anyways.

Do I want a Galaxy S? Maybe a slider? That new dual core? Maybe an inexpensive LG?

It's extremely good for consumers.


You are missing the point.

We are talking ecosystems here. Namely Androids vs. Apples


I'm not missing any point: An ancestor post made the very correct statement that Android's "fragmentation" is also its strength. You went off about how it doesn't benefit consumers.

That is simply wrong.

Sidenote: The phone companies don't customize the handsets at all. The manufacturers do it for them. If the Verizon Samsung comes with a particular app or has a feature removed, it's because Samsung -- an Android partner -- did that for them. It's a small nuance, but it's an important one.


I haven't yet seen anyone show how it benefits to customer.


If you can't see how choice and a competitive ecosystem benefits consumers, then I don't think you're really looking.


Choice between what?

I am all for choice between Android and Apple.

But we are debating choice WITHIN Android ecosystem.

I.e. different app stores for the same type of os.

That isn't good for consumers there is absolutely no advantage to that. What should that be?


Hm, obviousness aside - would you mind elaborating on that?

Additionally, even if warped, personalized and differentiated Android variants have turned the underlying OS into a success, that doesn't imply that it's a good thing. Coincidence, iffy business tactics and "being good enough" are exactly why Windows took off.


If you lack the dependencies, bootstrapping this command is also a whimsical one-liner:

   sudo apt-get install git-core wget && mkdir -p ~/bin && export PATH=$PATH:~/bin \
   && wget http://android.git.kernel.org/repo && chmod a+x ./repo \
   && mv ./repo ~/bin && mkdir android && cd android \
   && repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git \
   ; repo sync ; make
I ran this on an Ubuntu 9.04 installation inside of VirtualBox. Total dollars spent between the VM, OS, GNU toolkit, package manager, external programs, build environment, and the Android source code: $0.00. I never stop being surprised that giving software away for free is a viable business model for so many different companies.


Hmmm, a couple of points for Andy:

1) I just tried that line out on my Fedora machine - it doesn't work, doesn't know what repo is.

2) after running 'make' does my computer turn into an Android device?

3) If not, what is the hardware I have to use

4) where are the instructions for loading the newly compiled code onto my device - I see a make, but no make install... I mean I like binaries as much as the next geek, but they aren't terribly interesting unless they, you know, run.

5) I tried loading the binary on my device, but it refused - something about unauthenticated code - what should I do to use your wonderful open system?

OK, obviously I'm trolling a little here, but Andy's tweet is every bit as much a troll. I doubt very much that RMS agrees with Andy as to the openness of Android... In fact, I just went and looked, here's his thoughts on the subject:

Android's source code is free software, but in many phones the binaries of Android are not free, because the phones are set up to refuse to run modified versions if the user installs them. [This practice is called ‘tivoization’, named after the product that pioneered it.] If the software in Android were under version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), users would be guaranteed the freedom to install their own modified versions.

Even when Android is not tivoized, it needs non-free drivers or firmware to run. As far as I know, no smartphone is made that can be run without proprietary software. None respects its users' freedom.

The shortest path to making it possible to run a smartphone without non-free software is to reverse engineer those non-free drivers or firmware and write free replacements - RMS

So that would be a 'no'


Android is really the best hope for a free and open mobile experience though, at this point. It may not be 100% RMS approved, but it's fairly close, and the weight of Google means it is actually getting traction, unlike, say, OpenMoko. I guess MeeGo or something might count too, but that all seems quite vague at this point.

I think that, with time, we'll see more truly open, Nexus One style phones. I really wish they hadn't given it up so easily: something like that would be competitive in Europe where it's much more common to pay full price for an unlocked phone.

Sometimes, I think people forget just how cool open source is in terms of being able to take stuff and hack on it.


You are right that it's the best that we have at the moment, but from where I'm standing, openness in phones is decreasing, not increasing - each new generation of Android devices seems to contain more and more locked-down proprietry code.

Maybe I'm being naive, but when I hear 'open' I'm thinking that that means that if I don't like a small part of my otherwise great smartphone, I can go in and modify the code that handles that specific part, compile it, and download the modified code onto my phone so that it does what it wants. That is several orders of magnitude of effort away from today's reality of:

- find a security flaw

- design an exploit of the security flaw so that I can root my device

- extract the drivers from the binary so that I can add them back into my new image after recompiling

- modify code and compile

- reload new image onto phone

I just feel that the open source community is getting sucked in to supporting this solution that is dragging us away from what would truly be an open platform. If Rubin was being honest about an 'open' Android, it would be under GPLv3, as RMS says. It's not, and the reason it isn;t is because it is not open. Rubin is spinning this, and I do not respect that.


A few more notes, while I'm at it:

> openness in phones is decreasing, not increasing - each new generation of Android devices seems to contain more and more locked-down proprietry code.

"openness in phones" took a huge leap forward with Android. 5 years ago, the idea of a widely deployed, almost completely open phone system would have seemed like science fiction. Just because some companies are adding crap doesn't take anything away from the core system, which continues to be free and continues to improve.

> the open source community is getting sucked in to supporting this solution that is dragging us away from what would truly be an open platform.

Which is, pray tell? Google has poured millions of dollars into Android, and we get that under a very free license. The "open source community" isn't some magical thing: it takes real work to make stuff happen, and Google is doing it with Android, including stuff like usability and GUI work that the "open source community" hasn't been so strong at in the past. So I don't really see some magical solution just wafting down from the heavens... it's simply not on the radar at this point. The only other remote possibilities are Meego and perhaps Symbian, but I don't really see much going on there.


The Apache license is liberal and open, and very much free. RMS doesn't like the fact that you can build proprietary stuff on top of it, but sometimes you need that freedom in order to involve companies in your community.

I agree that we're still not seeing manufacturers do quite what we'd like, but I think it'll come with time, most likely in places that are not the United States: Europe and China most likely.

And, to be clear, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that it's going to come from Apple.


This is a logical fallacy -- you define and use two definitions of the word "free" in the same context. On the one hand you associate freedom with RMS's context, which must include the ability to actually run the free code. RMS views the software and the specialized hardware it runs on as one and the same -- inseparable in freedom. In the sentence just before it, though, you argue that freedom is simply the Apache license as applied to software. In fact, what you are actually arguing begs the question because you assert that the software is free because it is under the Apache license, but we know that the Apache license is free because the software is liberal and open, as defined by the Apache license.

Before you can approach whether or not the software is free you must first define what free is. The parent poster is relatively safe in this because he provides RMS's definition of free, which is encoded in the GPLv3. Until you provide a similar definition I don't think one can state the software is either free or unfree.

I agree that we're still not seeing manufacturers do quite what we'd like, but I think it'll come with time, most likely in places that are not the United States: Europe and China most likely.

And, to be clear, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that it's going to come from Apple.

I think this is just speculation.


> define what free is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Source_Definition - Android qualifies, except for a few bits and pieces.

> I think this is just speculation.

I'd bet a lot of money on it. Apple has a long, long history of making beautiful, innovative, forward-thinking, and fairly locked down products, from the Mac onwards.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Source_Definition - Android qualifies, except for a few bits and pieces.

OK, but you admit that your definition of free isn't everyone's definition of free. To be even more precise, the OSI itself doesn't even call that definition free, they call it 'open source.' The FSF, in fact, has a contrary definition that they maintain is actually free software. Both parties refer to the OSI as 'open source' and the FSF as 'free.'

This leads in to the main problem that Google/Android have -- when they market Android as being open they don't really define what open is. It is prima facie true that Android is not open on all fronts, so the question is really what Google considers "open" to mean.

Jobs put this observation into an interesting context because it's important to note that a lot of software in the iPhone is free as well. In the manual you will find a list (quite a long one) of all the GPL and BSD licensed software included inside the iPhone. The question, then, isn't who is open and who is closed, but what the definition of 'open' is and who more closely abides by it.


    OK, but you admit that your definition of free isn't 
    everyone's definition of free
No shit ... my definition of "free" includes me distributing the code I made however I want.

If it where for me I would include a new rule in the OSI definition that excludes GPL from being called "open source", because its copyleft extends to the whole package that links to GPL pieces, and for me this is not "free".

    Both parties refer to the OSI as 'open source' and the 
    FSF as 'free.'
The Apache license has been approved as "Free Software", which is by no means the same as "free" ... an English word that you cannot trademark.

    It is prima facie true that Android is not open on all 
    fronts
In my definition of "open" that doesn't include forcing the phone manufacturers to not build locked phones.

If my voice doesn't matter (I'm a nobody) here's the voice of Linus Torvalds (you know, the guy without whom you can't speak about Linux):

    [Stallman] calls it "tivoization", but that's a word he 
    has made up, and a term I find offensive, so I don't 
    choose to use it. It's offensive because Tivo never did 
    anything wrong, and the FSF even acknowledged that. The 
    fact that they do their hardware and have some DRM 
    issues with the content producers and thus want to 
    protect the integrity of that hardware.

    The kernel license covers the *kernel*. It does not 
    cover boot loaders and hardware, and as far as I'm 
    concerned, people who make their own hardware can 
    design them any which way they want. Whether that means 
    "booting only a specific kernel" or "sharks with 
    lasers", I don't care.
And I don't care about what Jobs says, the real question is: can you build your own iOS phone? can you participate in its development (like contributing bug fixes)? Can you choose phones from multiple manufacturers and multiple carriers? Can you install your own apps on it without going through that certification shit-hole?

No? Well Android is a lot more open, regardless of definition.


So, it's not free? "except for a few bits and pieces" It's either free or it's not. "except" should not enter the vocabulary.


That defines "open". Free is defined here:

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

Also, the FSF (and I assume by extension RMS) has no problem with the Apache 2.0 license which is a free software license and compatible with GPLv3.


You can absolutely do that today by purchasing an unlocked handset. I think the problem is your expectation of being able to do that on a subsidized handset, where you've traded certain contract terms for a heavily discounted device.


It would be depressing for Android to be our best hope. An OS built by a company that gets most of its revenue from advertising will be subject to the whims of Google's customers, which are advertisers, not people like me.

And you can see this: 1) The market is strongly biased towards ad-supported aps. Who benefits? Google. Whose data is passed to the advertisers? Mine. 2) All of Google's ad-supported services are preinstalled on the devices. 3) Android handsets must be activated before use. I've paid for the hardware, but it's useless until I give more data to Google.

Google's business model is giving away cool stuff in return for milking you for information. I can't believe people think that this is "free" or "open".


If you buy the right hardware, you can get rid of all of the Google stuff if you want.

Also, it is open source, so you've got a very good base to fork from to make something of your own, should you so choose. I think we'll see more of that in the future.

Sure, Google adds some stuff on top, but I think that's a small price to pay for all the free stuff you get underneath, which is more than enough to build your own Google-free system should you choose.


> It may not be 100% RMS approved, but it's fairly close

It's nowhere near RMS approval at all.


What's missing? Some drivers and firmware? The RMS quote is, from above, "The shortest path to making it possible to run a smartphone without non-free software is to reverse engineer those non-free drivers or firmware and write free replacements", which to me indicates that Android is fairly close. He is not saying "the shortest path is to go write something else from scratch" or "gee, it's not really free yet, so I'll buy a shiny iPhone because... what the heck, I owe it to myself and I'm tired of harping about this free software bullshit anyway".

What else out there is closer? That has a remote chance of being successful?

I see it as a "perfect being the enemy of the good" situation. Android is the best, most open thing out there, even if it's not 100% open, and not 100% the best thing, either.


What else out there is closer? That has a remote chance of being successful?

Completely irrelevant. If I say a donkey is not a horse and you then say "Yes, but it's closer than a manatee!" the donkey doesn't suddenly become a horse. Successfulness also really has no relevance to whether or not it's free.

What's missing? Some drivers and firmware? The RMS quote is, from above, "The shortest path to making it possible to run a smartphone without non-free software is to reverse engineer those non-free drivers or firmware and write free replacements", which to me indicates that Android is fairly close. He is not saying "the shortest path is to go write something else from scratch" or "gee, it's not really free yet, so I'll buy a shiny iPhone because... what the heck, I owe it to myself and I'm tired of harping about this free software bullshit anyway".

As a kernel developer I'll just say that my opinion is that this is a monumental task that says that Android is about as far away as any other embedded proprietary Linux-based device (including the Nokia phones).

Edit: That should be not including the Nokia phones. The Nokia Maemo phones are far easier to deal with than the Android phones.


> Completely irrelevant. If I say a donkey is not a horse and you then say "Yes, but it's closer than a manatee!" the donkey doesn't suddenly become a horse. Successfulness also really has no relevance to whether or not it's free.

First of all, I'm talking about the percentage of the source code and the system created from it, not about animals. We're all technical here, so let's not go off on tangents.

That said, it's a compromise. I want something that is open, and I want something that is reasonably widespread, and I want something that works well, because of the positive network externalities inherent in much of the software world. I'm ok with not 100% open and not the market leader - indeed, I'm fairly biased towards open, being an Ubuntu user (even though that is not 100%).

Beyond what I want, a completely free system is useless if no one produces actual hardware for it, so I think Android's compromises are good ones in that direction. Perhaps RMS does not agree, but that's his right.

What is so 'monumental' about the drivers and firmware that are missing?

I think you are discounting the value of the GUI and user space stuff, which is given to you under a free license with Android. Recreating that stuff would be a monumental task in and of itself.


     Completely irrelevant. If I say a donkey is not a
     horse and you then say "Yes, but it's closer than a 
     manatee!" the donkey doesn't suddenly become a horse
You can use a donkey to almost the same chores as a horse, you can even mate a donkey with a horse.

So this particular point is completely irrelevant ;)

    As a kernel developer ... Android is about as far away 
    as any other embedded proprietary Linux-based device.
You've got to give some concrete facts here, as this is too vague.


You can use a donkey to almost the same chores as a horse, you can even mate a donkey with a horse.

I'm not going to play the semantics game, I'm relying on the reader to not be dense.

You've got to give some concrete facts here, as this is too vague.

OK, to give an example of a problem of similar scope, the first thing that has to be done is root the phone. Luckily, we have a canonical equivalent to bypassing the digital signed software -- Tivo. Tivo was basically the same deal. In order to load your nonsigned code into the firmware of the device, one first needed to find a security hole and exploit it. From there one would have to recreate the necessary drivers and such. This would essentially be equivalent to the effort to reverse engineer the Broadcom wireless drivers, which is still not complete (partially because I think they recently announced their intention to release at least some source code).

An example of a device which directly contradicts davidw's statement that Android is the most free smartphone is the Nokia N900. The development work needed to customize the N900 is a fraction of that of the Android platform.


> davidw's statement that Android is the most free smartphone

davidw didn't say that. What I said is that overall, I think Android is our best bet for something that's free, but also "matters". OpenMoko is quite free, for instance, but doesn't really matter - no one will ever use it. I honestly don't have a good idea about what's in MeeGo, how free it is, how much it's possible to tweak the installation on the phone, and so on.

> I'm not going to play the semantics game, I'm relying on the reader to not be dense.

You are the one who brought the zoo into it. The rest of us were talking about mobile phone software.

Also, in terms of their DNA, a donkey is far closer to a horse than a manatee is, if you really want to get into comparisons of animals...


Both you and bad_user are completely missing the point. The idea is that "openness" is not a universal. The statement 'X is more open than Y' does not hold unless you define open. I agree that your definition of open does indeed categorize Android as more 'open' than some competitors.

However, the notion that you can simply say that Android is more open than the iPhone, universally, is simply untrue. I'm attempting to promote a semblance of formal statement here, wherein the parties actually state their axioms as opposed to making otherwise semantically meaningless statements like 'Android is more open than iPhone'.


Come on. Axioms? Formal statements?

It's pretty simple:

Where can I download the source code for the iPhone's UI?

Does iPhone have anything like Android's intents that allows me to plug my own stuff in?

Can I install my own applications on my own damn phone without paying Apple?

There may be some metric where iPhone is more open than Android, but I can't think of it.

There are plenty of nice things to be said about the iPhone: it really changed the phone game, it's beautiful, well designed, and so on. But 'open' and 'free' aren't really words I'd associate with it.


Unfortunately N900 doesn't have any traction and has some usability issues. I've played with one and I think the OS is a little too heavy.


RMS is concerned about freedom for end-users.

Apache license gives freedom to developers, including freedom to take freedom away from end-users.


And Apple is concerned just about end-users. End users are not concerned about RMS and his concerns at all.


No, Apple is concerned about making money. They make money by making things and convincing end-users to buy them. One way to convince end-users is to make something useful and pretty and then market it in the most effective way possible.

They are very good at this, and I do not fault them for it, but I also do not confuse altruism with what is clearly a profit motive.


So if Apple is making something useful for users, and users reward Apple for it by buying their products, what's the issue again?


What, in anything I said, did you read as critical of Apple or of Apple's users? For the record, I have been a Mac user for the last five years, but do I really need to say that every time I describe Apple's profit motive?


Unlike Google's altruism?


Ah, assigning motives to my comment. No, what I said about Apple is just as true of Google. And Microsoft.


There's at least one project that aims to make Android completely free software and thus 100% RMS approved.

Free software is cooler, open source is only kinda sorta cool ;p


The best comment I've heard on the free-ness of Android is:

"Everyone thought that Android would usher in a new era of freedom for handset users. Unfortunately, it just turned out that Android is more open not for users, but for Carriers to do as they please. Compare the crapware installed on Android phones vs. the iPhone. In a weird way, Apple has done more to push freedom for the (non-hacker) end user than Android has."


> it doesn't work, doesn't know what repo is.

I think that should have said "git" instead of "repo"


'repo' is a google-authored tool (in python) to nagivate their repositories and grab the correct build.

There are a dozen dependencies not listed in that tweet to build android. JDK5.0-12, flex, bison, libncurses, etc etc etc.


Perhaps he meant it's open enough for a phone manufacturer? Not that I completely agree with that definition of "Open".


What is all this proclaimed openness worth if it still boils down to exploiting security systems if you want to run that system you just modified?

Of all the android devices currently available, the N1 (which is around a year old and getting outpaced by newer devices) is the only one that even remotely allows you to play with it in a truly open way.

Open isn't "it's able to run mostly-google-certified apps". Open is: Let me modify this OS here and upload it to that device there.

Open isn't being unable to uninstall bloatware and trialware put in place by carriers to get a couple of extra bucks.

Open isn't not being able to use all the features of a handset/os just because a carrier decided they don't like the feature (with no official way of turning the functionality back on)


> What is all this proclaimed openness worth if it still boils down to exploiting security systems if you want to run that system you just modified?

Yes, because everybody can make an Android phone, even if it's too technically challenging: there will always be smaller companies that will compete on openness.

HTC, Motorolla, Samsung are competing on features, but just wait another 2 or 3 iterations.

At least Android (both the OS and the Marketplace) gives you this possibility.


but to really make a compelling Android phone, you'd also need the google apps (even if it's just for the Android Market, or now the c2d services and who knows what other features will require the google tools later on).

To get these, you have to agree to some licensing terms with Google. The terms are not publically disclosed and for what we know, it's Google forcing these security-features into these devices.

Android is all but open.


Android is completely open; it's Apache licensed and freely available and freely redistributable. The Google apps, the device drivers, and the phones themselves are not.

There is a difference. They are not all considered "Android". You can very easily live without any of those closed features if you so desire. Buy my Openmoko Freerunner from me, and you can run a 100% open Android system. You can even find or make replacement applications for all of the proprietary Google apps if you want to.


I completely agree with what you are saying. But:

Without the Google Tools, the experience you would get on that device is subpar compared to what a device with the Google Tools would provide.

It's not the the (excellent) Gmail app we are talking about.

First and foremost, it's the Andorid Market.

I know that it's possible to install any .apk on a device, but you'd need to get them. As it stands now, most of the better-known Android applications are only available on the Android Marketplace.

So without the Google tools you don't just lose the few Google Apps (Google Talk, Gmail, Google Voice), but also most of the Android Apps currently available.

And it doesn't stop there. In Froyo, Google added the Cloud-to-Device API (that's the c2d I was referring to) which provides about the same functionality as Apples background notifications.

That, too, requires the Android Market, so a non-google-device loses that functionality as well.

This is just one feature, but it shows a trend of Google being willing to couple core API and system components to the availability of the Google tools, so you just plain don't know whether pure free Android will continue to be something you can put on a device you want to be competitive with (if any device without the Android Market can be called that nowadays even)


I think this is a very good point. While at some point in the future it will likely be possible to buy 'beige box' phone hardware and run a hand built version of Android on it, it will in actual usage be a very different beast to the devices being peddled by Motorola & HTC because of the missing access to the propriety Google apps and services.

So if the 'Google certified' version of Android wins, I'm not sure how that is good for anyone other than installing Google as the Microsoft of the mobile age. In that scenario, I'm not sure why I should be rooting for one dictator over another, other than that at least one has taste.


Hm.. He didn't actually respond to Mr. Jobs, though-- right?

Mr. Jobs said that the issue of openness was a side issue to the real issue of fragmentation/integration, iirc.

So regardless of the accuracy of that statement, a response would have to address that point.


Jobs is just pulling a calculated PR move of framing the conversation. If you address "fragmentation/integration" then he's already won, because the way it's worded is in Apple's favor. What Andy failed to do is shift the language back to something both favorable and understandable, such as "actually it's about choice vs dictatorship".


No he didn't, and I find that I agree with Mr. Jobs when it comes to the issues of Android fragmentation. It seems to me that Google is creating a smart-phones version of the Windows/PC paradigm: cheap and plentiful but lacking polish.


Wonder why he left out the 'make install'? Oh, right...


Oh common.

Openness != Open Source

"Don't worry dad, you can remove those pre-installed apps from your carrier by re-building the OS." Right.


it's obvious what jobs is doing here. he's throwing an opinion to build public consensus/sides-line on (doesn't matter if it's wrong or right). this is exactly what news stations like FOX and such do.


My definition of open is more relaxed: it's open if you can extend and change it without getting permission first.


Well, if that defines typical user experience, Apple has little to fear.


Touché


Note the absence of 'make money;'.


Note the absence of 'make money;'.

Edit: Apparently some of you are either offended by money or have mistaken this for a joke. My bad in either case. I was (and am) unable to think of a way to point to the proverbial elephant in the room without sounding at least a little bit smarmy.

I am not an uncomprehending oaf here. I can look at this and say "Oh, neat!", too, but if this is to be taken as a reaction to Jobs's criticism, then I don't think you can escape the context of that criticism. Jobs did not say "open is not neat", he said "open does not always win"--where "winning" is inescapably to do with profit--and this, I believe, only serves to clarify what exactly does not win without actually refuting the claim. "Open" is not a panacea. It is not magic pixie dust that turns shit into gold. It's a cop out answer to the tough question of how do you build a great product, and it makes correspondingly little money for Google. If you were in Jobs's position would you not take this as a sign that your approach--the approach which relies dramatically less on partner companies not dropping the ball and that has already made you money hand over fist--is one to have greater confidence in?




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