Google’s Android operating system is open source… but many of the apps that make Android what it is are not. The Gmail app, Google Play Store, Google Play Music, YouTube, Google Maps — they’re closed source.

Over the past year or two, Google has started offering many of these apps for download from the Play Store, which makes it easy for users to stay up to date even if they’re not running the latest version of Android. Updates to the Google Play Services framework also helps.

These are all good things for the user experience… but not so much for the openness of the platform. Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo took a look at Google’s play for Google Play, and how it’s helping Google fight for a uniform experience… while at the same time it has the potential to seriously tick off companies using Android such as Samsung, HTC, and Amazon.

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8 replies on “Lilbits (10-21-2013): Is Android only kinda open source?”

  1. I can understand Google’ s position: They’ve created a monster wroth Android OS.
    To keep things as “legit” as Apple appears to be they have to reign in and be more controlling.
    If not, then the “openness” is taken advantage of and exploited by ethically challenged profiteers, the OS gets a bad reputation and isn’t taken seriously by revenue drivers.
    It’s a tough call to make that I don’t envy them having to make, as the very same openness is the thing that attracted so many in the first place.

    1. Ya, Google’s in a tough position. Not being a fully open platform causes some (many?) users/developers to get angry but being too open causes OEMs and shareholders to be wary of the product.

      To me, the main reason there aren’t a lot of backlash from both sides (at least not yet) is because it’s Google, a giant corporation, that’s backing it. If Android Inc. wasn’t bought by Google, I’m sure both users and business entities would have been more harsh on the platform.

  2. Android remains far more open than competitors, in the one way that really counts. While it has the downside of malware risks it is the only platform allowing users, shareware authors, LOB developers, contract programmers, etc. to install custom applications. The WinRT deployment story is so bad that many big .Net ISVs and consultants are calling it “The Death of .Net” if not Windows itself. Check out Rockford Lhotka’s blog over the past two years to see how he goes from excited to concerned to appalled and currently panicked in a very short time.

  3. take a step back and look at the equivalent in the desktop/laptop pc market, the Linux OS. it dead ship and no manufacture want to jump in to it. the android OS without Google blessing could have share a same fate. still, google still have to watch out for the consequence, without the open source community, they cannot do everything by themselves.

  4. You look at the list of pieces that are not open source, and they correspond with a lot of Google’s services. I’ve never really thought of those services as particularly open. It makes sense from a quality control aspect. Google is trying to deliver polished services and to do that they’ve closed the clients for those services off from tinkering. I’d say, the Android OS, which I’d define as the base, UI, and basic applications, is indeed open source, but Google’s services are not. I Can’t say I blame them. They are a for profit company after all. People seem to have assumed that Google’s embracing of open source means they intend to run a charity, but It’s just another buisness model to them. One that seems to be treating them pretty well.

  5. Android is a fully open-source OS. Googles bundled services and apps are not, and really never were. Google is not a charity. They monetize use of their free sevices with targeted ads, and use some of that revenue to provide the world with an open-source platform. I think that is a really great deal for casuel consumers and the open-source crowd alike.

    It is neither a walled garden nor a jungle. It is a walled garden with unlocked doors.

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