Smartphones

Google clamps down on Android

Google is laying down some rules on what Android carriers are allowed to do with the platform and what they're not. Jack Wallen looks at the new restrictions and what they mean to the spirit of open source.

If you've spent enough time around the Android platform, you know how varied the interface is. From the HTC Sence, to Motorola Blur, to Samsung Fascinate -- each carrier has their own take on how best to serve up the platform (There are, obviously varying opinions as to which take is the best.) Although that is very much in keeping with open source, it does cause problems for developers and support alike. Think about how many times you've had to be support for an Android user in your company only to realize you were trying to walk the user through setting up an Exchange connection on a device unlike the one you were using. Believe it or not, the difference between the Motorola and the HTC Android Interface is different enough to nearly seem like you're working on an altogether different platform.

That is not good from a marketing or support standpoint.

So -- here's what's happening -- Google has finally decided to clamp down on the carriers from making "willy nilly" tweaks to the OS. In fact, Google has laid down some rules. Those rules?

  • No more unapproved tweaks.
  • No more partnerships formed outside of Google’s purview.
  • Companies will need to have their plans for the OS approved before receiving early access to Google’s software.
  • Companies must sign a "non-fragmentation" clause that grants Google veto power over changes.

Among many communities, Google is now (more than ever) starting to appear like yet another Evil Empire. When Android was first launched, companies were told they would have a sort of ultimate freedom to be able to develop and design around the platform. But now, it seems, that Google is making a mad-dash turnabout to stop companies from making Android "their own". And although this does go against the true spirit of open source, I actually think this is a smart move on Google's part -- so long as they do one thing: Keep the source fully available to companies and individuals.

Why do I think this is a smart move? There are certain issues that have cropped up with the Android platform. First and foremost the variances in the interfaces and settings controls offered up by different carriers has caused a lot of problems for support and developers. Second, viruses have popped up here and there, thanks to the lack of vetting done on the Android Market Place. These two issues alone have caused users exiting the Android platform for the more consistent Apple iOS platform.

In order for Android (and Google) to avoid attrition, some standards are simply going to have to be put in place. Does this mean Android has to become another Apple? No. What it means, however, is that carriers need to leave Android as-is for their handset. And that is not a bad thing. The default Android interface is, generally speaking, much better than anything the carriers have put out (far and away better than the Samsung take, if you ask me.) And this doesn't mean that end-users are going to suffer a lack of flexibility. There will still be other home screen launchers that can be installed (such as ADL Launcher, OpenHome, etc.), so the platform will still remain flexible.

And, more important to the end-user, every handset (regardless of carrier) will be able to be updated to the latest-greatest far sooner than the current model allows. That alone, should make Android users proclaim Google's clamping down a big win.

By laying down a few "laws" the Android platform will gain a stability and continuity it doesn't currently enjoy. This stability and continuity is going to be especially crucial as Android tries to take on Apple in the tablet market. If carriers and manufacturers are allowed to do as they please with the Android OS on tablets, Android would eventually fracture into far too many variances, causing complete confusion on the consumer level and chaos on the developer level. This could easily lead to the Android tablet failing.

As much as I hold dear to the tenets of open source, I actually feel this move on Google's part to be a smart one. By clamping down on carriers, the Android platform will be more consistent, better tested, faster to update, and better vetted. It's a win-win for the platform and the consumers. And although it makes Google look a little more evil (in the eyes of many an open source advocate), so long as they keep the source open they are abiding by the requirements of the open source license.

Anything to make the mobile field more competitive is a good thing. And improving the Android platform will make every end-user who holds an Android device in their hands happier in the end.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

60 comments
todd_dsm
todd_dsm

I don't have anything to add that other folks haven't included already. All I can say is that it IS a PITA to support all of these different manufacturers whimsical configurations. Manufacturers can whine about not being able to add their 'personality' to their phones if they want but the fact is the Microsoft mobile platform leaves them with the same "1-option period" policy. On the other hand, these new rules will allow manufacturers to present solution ideas, Google to approve, and, if they are great ideas, they can still be included, perhaps even by Google. Once the minor variants are gone, the question of E-Z support will just go away. Companies will have 1 less reason not to adopt it as a mobile platform. Can I get an Amen?

bergman.zach
bergman.zach

I believe this is great news, indeed. Android carrier overlays defeat the whole purpose of a flexible platform. I hope Google will use this to drive a message home to carriers that telecom providers provide... telecom service - NOT software features.

Karlh64
Karlh64

Maybe Google should forma "council" of interested companies. Have everyone sign a non-disclosure agreement but then get their input up front on not only the OS but also the rules of engagement for the various developers that they want to bring in. This would benefit developers as they would have input and information on upcoming releases before everyone else and Google would get buy in from the open source community and really good ideas as to where they should be going.

CharlesG1970
CharlesG1970

In the Artical you referacne Samsung, but they are a Builder, n ot a carrier. I happen to like much of the HTC sence builds, although I am using a Cyanogen 7 Build on my phone right now. Google is just right to push back on the carriers, but I am happy to continue with the Builders work. If you don't like the Samsung interface then buy a Motorola etc. but if you are with Telus (canada) or Verison why do you have to put up with all there crap ware on top of a good phone. Good for you Google. As for the artical please be clear as to the seperation between Carriers and Builders because there is a big differance. Thanks,

rbest
rbest

Our office has started supporting android phones and every last one we have set up has been just different enough that it takes time to figure out how they work. I think this will be great for the platform and supporting end users, for the IT dept, in a corporate setting.

jayohem
jayohem

I always thought that open source meant non-proprietary rather than every man for himself. If the carriers tweak too much, we'll back to that standing joke, "American Standard! no two alike" and they'll all be proprietary. It should be OK to have variety such as in UNIX with its Bourne, C, and Korn shells, which were agreed upon interfaces to the OS back in the day when Bell Labs called the shots.

jkc7297
jkc7297

All they have to do is branch the source like Redhat linux, Fandora for open source, Redhat for control source. They can control everything on the control source branch and other company can do what they want on the open source side. Every company can have their own branch if they needed. There is no reason Google need to control everything.

greggwon
greggwon

The carriers are still not interested in competing just based on "network performance" because it takes big cash and time to be competitive from that perspective. Instead, they want to have a "cheap" competition by putting branding and "features" on the phones that provide something that you can only get from their phones. I'm not talking about things like GSM simultaneous voice/data vs CDMA one or the other. I'm talking about simple things like shortcut buttons to features/content that most people would never know how to create themselves. I think that this is where the "Android" name vs the "Android user features" separate into a confusing mess for the average consumer. So it makes sense for Google to mediate this boundary so that they can try and help the carriers make good decision of how to help consumers appreciate what they want to offer on the phone.

rhmccool
rhmccool

The good side is that it will stabilize the Android brand and make development and support much easier. It'll also make life lots easier for the folks who don't want to fiddle with their smartphones and tablets, but want them to "just work." OTOH, it'll leave fixes for various OS weaknesses at the mercy of Goggle; they'll get fixed when and if Goggle determines that they're important enough to fix in a new release. It will also limit the choice of UIs, since alternative launchers and home screens are not the same as a fully integrated UI layer. As a fan (though not yet a purchaser) of what HTC has done with the Sense UI, I think that limiting alternate UIs is ultimately not a good idea. So, some good, some bad.

Interactive Communication
Interactive Communication

The facts are in, the stats are in, this news can not be any better for the new developing android market. The hard thing to understand is giving birth to children then letting them be raised by some one else. Google is only adding a speed bump to the true growth of artificial intelligence. This I believe is only temporary. The guidelines are simple, it is only to keep the android platform communicating the same language to the main server, and back out to the carriers, to the respective devices. Don't worry open source the gmen are not going to arm wrestle them all down. It obvious we all suffer the micro-torn complex. The bottom line is the growth of all the new technology is growing way to fast, the problem is the information between networks are becoming to complex for different device to communicate, causing slow dons and failure. I am pretty much sure with out any second thinking google wants to be able to deliver a central reliable service, and allow the growth of primary virtual intelligence to mature to artificial intelligence. The best of this all is the I believe with all the new market technology every one is making revenue and the old ISP dream has moved to the phone carrier wallet. Google I recommend doing what u are doing, bring all the racing cars in for a pit stop, see what companies have stay closes to the same vision and values, give the other mis lead small tech firms some guidance, get all the devices back on the track and shoot for the stars. Jean Paul Gauto Sorry for type or grammar miss que "Droid X " "A1" "Acer" www.energysolution.tv

claudius2u
claudius2u

The title says my 2 cents' worth.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

More than a year ago I noted on these boards that if Google didn't take back control, Android would end up killing itself. While HTC and some others have been producing some great devices, it seems the majority of Android sales have been going to the cheap, under $50 devices which honestly have been hurting Android's reputation as a user-friendly OS. Unfortunately, this level of control is likely to kill some of the cheaper knock-off handsets which means the average price of Android phones is going to come up to maybe a third less than the iPhone rather than half the price. This could level the playing field in both price and quality--where competition should really start to heat up. I look to see some significant improvements on both sides with these changes.

mbm29414
mbm29414

When Apple does this, they're evil, but when Google does it, it's a good move? I love the spin here, though :). "Android's great! Android's open! Android's free!" {Inside head}Oh, crap, Android sucks because it's so open and free! Hmm... let's borrow some ideas from Apple.{/Inside head} "Android's great! Android's limited! Android's controlled! Apple still sucks for treating their customers like children and telling them what they can and can't do!"

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

A fragmented platform is extremely difficult to develop for and support. I think Google is taking a step in the right direction, although it isn't enough. As is, Android is no longer a unified platform, as it is heavily fragmented. Maybe it's time for Google to dump Android altogether as an OS and re-brand it as a development environment. They could license it to different tablet and smartphone makers who could then turn it into their own, slap their own name on it, and open their own app marketplaces. Android has practically hit this stage already. Who knows...if Android were to be turned into a development environment, we may see some interesting device-specific advances in technology.

tekwar007
tekwar007

They also need stop the software from being installed in a non-removable state by carriers. I really have no need for Bitbop, blockbuster, CityID, Peep, RockBand, Twitter, and a variety of other apps put on my cell phone. Not being able to remove them is just plain wrong. It's my cell phone, not theirs. All of those are apps I should be able to download if I, repeat "I", want to.

ciscokid66
ciscokid66

I am the Network Manager of a very large (30k+ employees) company and while I have to support Droid phones (to an extent), I detest having to do so simply because they are all different. At least the iPhones I have to support are extremely simple to set up Exchange email on and, more importantly, have the SAME configuration EVERY TIME. I hate making my network admins support Droids for this very reason. Even Blackberries are more standardized than Droids, for crying out loud! Droids are fine for folks who want a toy to play with but until they develop a more standardized platform, you won't see them in any large corporate environments. Of course, it doesn't help matters that they don't even have the Cisco AnyConnect client software available for Droid either. I have too many folks who require remote connectivity to our network and the fact that Droid doesn't offer this solution is a very big downside.

wdyson1
wdyson1

Whoever builds the slickest and the fastest wins. Users talk and will buy the slickest and the fastest. Taking away the opportunity to develop and sell new ideas will eliminates the competitive nature of improvement. This slows the improvement process drastically. Apple, Palm, Windows, already drive how things work. Where are they in the market? Freedom was Androids caveat. Whoever opens up a new solid platform will be the next tech junkie haven, offering opportunity to a new generation of development. No telling how long it will take for that to come along.

steve.radak
steve.radak

I LOVE my HTC Droid Incredible. I thought it was the best phone I ever owned, but I couldn't recommend Android as the corporate standard because of the fragmentation. Another user had a Motorola Droid X and differences between the two units was astonishing. I was pressed to make a decision about the next corporate standard phone and I had no choice but to let them have the iPhones they wanted so badly. Google, you have wounded me!

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

I absolutely agree that Google needs to lock down Android. Open source is fine, but not on my smart phone. I want the #$% thing to work and to be supportable and to have apps available that run on it. I do NOT want someone (some carrier) screwing around with the thing to suit its own particular fancy. I loath Apple and its attitude, but if Android becomes fragmented as did Unix and as is Linux is doing (what's the distro du jour??) I will either revert to a "feature phone" and an iPad or an iPhone.

paul.watson
paul.watson

There is a third way. In order to do whatever they want, there must be a "standard build" of Android for the device that is delivered, source code and all, to Google. This would be fully open source to the world. Once Google has approved the standard build for the device, the third party can release their own perversion build. One would think that the device manufacturer would be the one to do the standard build. The manufacturer or a carrier must first, in cooperation with Google, produce a "stock build" for the device. Carriers should require this of the manufacturer before carrying the product. Access to updates and new versions is managed in the same way. Once the standard build is approved, the third party can trick-out the kit. There could be a good deal of latitude in this area, because the end customer knows that if they want to get the standard build from Google, or build it themselves, they can. My guess is that many structured organizations (companies) will standardize on the standard build to ensure uniformity and portability. If there is a market for the alt builds, then the third parties will find it and meet their customer's requirements. Google needs to be up front with the third parties about what they will engineer into the standard build. This will avoid the Microsoft methodology of putting developers out of business by adding the application to Microsoft Windows.

apotheon
apotheon

Google isn't talking about closing the source of Android. It's talking about not providing support to carriers that want to abuse and mangle the OS in ways that do not serve the customers. If they really want to spend the money, carriers can always grab the source to the open parts of the system and maintain their own forks, but chances are good that the cost:benefit ratio is too high to make that option practical.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

that will be a huge improvement also. Google does employ an army of brilliant security researchers. When other people are still publishing buffer overflows, the Google infosec researchers are publishing kernel vulnerabilities. One may not like the overall company but the folks reall do earn there props. (in both nerd beanie and street cred senses) Google has been producing updates and upgrades however theses may not make it to the device owners because the vendors/carriers stand in the middle. You won't get Honeycomb for your Droid; Motorola will release a new brick of hardware in the Droid line and expect you to buy your updated/upgraded firmware. You pretty much have to go with a developer unit from the Nexus line to get delivery of timely updates otherwise your limited to waiting for your vendor/carrier to deliver an updated dirty firmware if they so choose to. With google managing Android better and requiring vendors/carriers acceptance of centralized management and patch/upgrade delivery, owners have a far better chance of actually getting those fixes and improvements. However, if Google does prove to be slow to ship updates, the Infosec nerds can at least apply pressure directly to one laceration instead of being presented with fifty separate stab wounds to try and seal.

apotheon
apotheon

Your re-spinning of what's going on is pretty amusing. Are you really unaware that there's a difference between open source (making the source open) and an open application store on one hand, and allowing service carriers and vendors to pile closed source crapware on top of the system on the other hand? These are not the same thing, by any reasonable stretch of the imagination.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That seems to already be the issue and cause of fragmentation within a single distribution. The carriers and harware manufacturers have already taken the stock Android, customized it into there own unofficial fork then dumped it on the market all under the Android branding. I do like the bit about forks requiring there ownseporate app markets. Sure, take our Android firmware and customize to differentiate but, remove the Android branding, connection to our official repositories and connetion to our official services. Granted, my intent would be to make working with the stock Android firmware much more attractive than vendor/hardware/version specific builds as we see now. - vendors get more value from sticking to the stock firmware and providing drivers back into the core distribution - for vendors who deliver a custom firmware, one could at least reflash the device with the stock Android firmware (a secondary firmware for vendor specifi drivers would be acceptable) - devices that ship with factory installed malware like the Droid get rejected by the market because better options would be available - and most importantly for real security, device owners get timely updates instead of being left to the whims of the vendor/carrier who may or may not deliver an update for one's current device (but will likely ignore it hoping people buy new hardware just to get the update). The issue now is the amount of device specific customizations that are being injected into Android before delivery to the consumer. Crap "value add" programs that can't be uninstalled. Owner hostile logic bombs "for security, to save the children, to fight terrorism, whatever your favorite political excuse).

apotheon
apotheon

I don't know if I agree that Android as an OS is unrecoverable. A little bit of policy from on high could redirect things substantially. The "development platform" approach might be better, anyway. It's certainly an interesting idea.

SKDTech
SKDTech

I can understand putting some of those apps on the phone as features but they should be uninstallable without having to root the phone.

apotheon
apotheon

If the smartphone can't connect to your network, your network is safer. The fact iPhones can do so means you have holes in your security. Is there really a (good) reason to provide access to that kind of device? You're better off using external email forwarding (for low-sensitivity emails only, of course) and disallowing all other smartphone connections unless and until the smartphone industry gets its act together.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I think you mean "nich" though Google could manage the repositories and the distribution development much better.

apotheon
apotheon

Why does your corporation need iPhones? . . . and keep in mind that the iPhone has been on *one* network so far. It's finally getting out of the AT&T box. It'll be on multiple networks, offered by multiple carriers, now -- which means multiple influences on configuration. Maybe iPhones will have the same problems within a year or two.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If google actually became more transparent and open but managed the repositories better also you'd get the "#&% thing to work and be supported." It's the neglectful management of repositories, amount of closed development involved and allowance for third parties to make a mess of the distribution while still claiming the brand name and access to repositories that seems to be causing issue. In terms of Unix and Linux; it's not fragmentation when it's seporate distributions. The kernel du jour is not the product; the distribution is. You can't even boot a kernel without something else added on; the usable product is the full assembly of commodity parts which happens to include some specific brand of OS kernel. If seporate products that happen to be based on the Linux kernel and happen to be highly interoperable are such a problem then we don't we have that same outrage over more than one choice of tooth paste or car? Why don't we claim that the computer hardware market is horribly fragmented because Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Apple don't all ship identical hardware assemblies? Osx and Windows7 are built and behave differently so obviously the proprietary OS market is horribly fragmented then also? Having many different distributions including the various BSDs, Linux based distributions, Osx and Windows is actually essential to ongoing evolution and healthy market competition. Distributions should absolutely be allowed to try new things and focus on different target users and tasks. The competition is what drives ongoing development. Look at IE6.. it sat stagnating until Microsoft realized they had competition from other browsers. The security improvements in Win7 and more reasonable pricing; your welcome. That was because of competitive "fragments" in the market scaring Microsoft. OsX; your welcome. The BSD base the Apple GUI sits on top of exists because of "fragmentation". We've seen what a lack of fragmentation between distinctly seporate distributions leads too already; how is that Windows malware industry doing? As for "distro du jour".. that would be natural market forces in affect. Between distributions and projects making component parts that go into distributions, it is a meritocracy. If your distribution is complete crap, you won't become or remain the du jour distro for very long and that's how it should be. The issue with Android is not that there are many other distributions which also happen to use the same kernel brand name. The issue is that many forks of Android are being mis-represented as the same distro. I'd actually say that the issue is a lack of distinctly seporate distributions in the mobile device space. Google needs competition to push it to manage it's repositories better and OEMs need competition to push them to deliver better products with a more consistant Android distribution. We need to see the weaker distributions and distribution fragments get pushed out through the healthy fragmentation at the market level not the distribution level.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If a product is branded as an Android device, I should be able to replace the OEM's firmware with Google's stock firmware image. I'll accept a driver bundle seporately from the OEM if they won't provide drivers through Google's central firmware. Beyond that though, a device that can not easily be flashed with stock Android should not claim to be an Android device and should not have access to Google's repositories (app market) and services. If the OEM/carrier forks Android they go it alone. Mandriva, as a fork of Red Hat, has to provide it's own repositories; I don't install packages from Red Hat's repos under Mandriva. It should be the same for Android.

apotheon
apotheon

If you prevent them from using the core software repositories, you basically punish the users for the bad behavior of the distributors.

Interactive Communication
Interactive Communication

Well thinking apple is going to change their proven technology is going to work against there profitable design. I think apple will find a better way to share pure information with Google apps to continue to show the lead they have with reliable technology.

Interactive Communication
Interactive Communication

Well thinking apple is going to change their proven technology is going to work against there profitable design. I think apple will find a better way to share pure information with Google apps to continue to show the lead they have with reliable technology.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

As I remember, part of keeping the death grip control over the Iphone was intentionally locking out carriers. Apple said right up front that the carrier was not going to be able to customize the Iphone. Apple giveth the phone. Apple giveth the updates. There has yet to be a customization even where multiple carriers are already involved. The I've seen around here is a Rogers branded app to download for displaying your network usage. Even that is delivered through the official repository after purchase. I'm guessing Bell has a similar usage display app. Maybe all the carriers will revolt with enough force to change Apple's mind but it doesn't seem likely with the current market.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

What you say is very idealistic and great in a perfect world where I don't have any actual work to do. However, this is not a perfect world and I do have real work to do. The phone is an appliance and I expect it to work as one - first time all the time. I know some people enjoy working on cars - hot rods, antique restorations and so forth. However, I'm not one of them. I expect my car to work: start when commaded, transport me and whomever/whatever I choose to take with me to where I want to go without any fuss beyond gas and scheduled maintenance. When it can't do that, or I cease trusting it to do that, it's gone. If my so-called smartphone falls into that category, it's gone, too.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The market has consistantly shown that marketing spin beats the heck out of real world product quality. I think the catch here is the branding. if the vendors can currupt the Android firmware and still call it an Android device then consumers get Android and it's repositories unpunishingly or they get Motoroloid reflecting badly on motorola without including the Android brand.

apotheon
apotheon

It's not certain that this would play out the way you describe, under current conditions. Sure, in a free market -- but that's not what we have here.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

products that respect the standard and work with the core distribution gain users and maintain access with Google's "value add" components. Why reward those who are attacking the end user through hostile customizations and one-off changes for the sake of differentiation a profit margin?

apotheon
apotheon

You're a pretty big Apple fan -- aren't you?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

As it stands, the carriers want what Apple has from all indications (harware units and market hype). If that reveses and what the carriers have becomes the driving force behind moving units Apple would indeed have to respond somehow. Between the amount of control the exert over devices even after purchase and rejecting third parties even as the company slumped into obscurity during Mr Job's absense, I don't see them changing without a drastic market or internal political shift. Still, it may only take a new CEO to start the shift.

apotheon
apotheon

Apple is a corporation. Things change. We'll see. Maybe it won't change, but I wouldn't rule it out just because of some soundbite from Jobs, any more than I expected Barack Obama to keep any of his campaign promises.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

"Presumably you would not tolerate your super-phone or your wonderful Jeep not performing the functions for which you selected them." While I will grant that later versions of Android have improved, I still read constant complaints about how people can't upgrade their phones to the newest version due to OEM or carrier interference. I constantly read about how the new Android tablets are "Unfinished" or "beta products". In the case of these tablets, the fault lies both with Google and the OEMs because the interfaces look like a proof of concept than a finished product while the hardware itself, so far, tends to have many features that just don't work for whatever reason. Your description previously implied that nobody needed any of the advanced capabilities of these newer products--in other words, basic and functional is all anybody needs. Plain Jane. I agree that whatever tool must be functional; it must work right. That doesn't mean it has to be absurdly basic.

apotheon
apotheon

> You apparently miss the point of the term "appliance". It's not that the device is simple, stupid, un-air-conditioned, etc. It is that it does whatever it's supposed to do, regardless of how simple or complex that might be. Mostly, you get that from simplicity -- so, yeah, it is about how simple or complex a device you have, to some extent at least. You seem, judging by both this and your reaction to the question of open vs. closed source, to be unwilling to consider the likelihood of software behaving itself based on factors like complexity and development process, but still somehow want to always be able to pick the best-behaving software on the first try every time. You're picking numbers out of a hat without looking and complaining that you aren't getting even numbers.

apotheon
apotheon

The naivete of the young is always such a cute thing to behold.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

You apparently miss the point of the term "appliance". It's not that the device is simple, stupid, un-air-conditioned, etc. It is that it does whatever it's supposed to do, regardless of how simple or complex that might be. Presumably you would not tolerate your super-phone or your wonderful Jeep not performing the functions for which you selected them. I said that the machine has to fulfill its purpose. If it can't/won't, it's gone. What color it is, what it is, what options it has are all windows-dressing and fluff. Nice to have fluff to be sure, but tangential to the reason I have the machine in the first place. How that translates into your delusion about what I drive is best left to your therapist. Likewise, how you translate my requirement that a device does what it's supposed to do reliably into "1984" is another session or two with your shrink. There is nothing that says everyone has to be the same, want the same things and use the same tools. I don't have a Jeep because I don't go off-road. If I did, I would have a Jeep or Land Rover or Power Wagon or whatever else I decided would best meet my requirements. And it would be whatever color I happened to want it to be.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Frankly I really don't care where the software comes from. Open Source/Closed Source debates have long since passed the point of matching the debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin in terms of relevance. Whether the program itself works is what matters, not whether the programmer makes is his/her living by selling licenses or by hoping people decide that their compulsion to get something for free doesn't cause them to jump right over the "donation" button. You're most likely right - I'm not aware of how many - or how few - FOSS devices I encounter each day and, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. The litmus test is whether it does what it's supposed to do.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... and not an expression of self. As such, I'd expect to see you driving down the road in a plain-jane sedan with no overt markings, an invisible color like white or silver--maybe champagne, a four-cylinder engine and who gives a hoot about any luxuries like air-conditioning or power options; if it came with them, fine, but you didn't specifically look for them. To you, that's all a phone is and you don't even need or want a smart phone; one of the old bricks serves you just fine. I don't own a hot rod. I don't restore antique cars. I simply own a Jeep Wrangler because it can do almost everything I need--starts when I turn the key, carries up to five people fairly comfortably and quite literally can go anywhere I need it to go. BUT, I specifically chose the colors and the options and I wanted the capability to go places most people wouldn't think of taking their plain-jane sedans. I had custom striping put on the sides to say "this is not just anybody's car, it's mine." My phone is the same way; it is personalized, it is a smart phone, and yet it simply "just works." Yes, a phone is an appliance, but everybody's needs for that appliance are not the same. Some people need the ability to receive and send email from their phones--especially if they're very busy people who can't sit in front of their computers 24 hours a day. Some people need other capabilities that go beyond mere communications. A phone is a tool used by different people not only as an expression of their identity, but as a facet of their everyday lives. In other words, for you, Orwell's "1984" is an expression of your ideal world where everybody is the same, but this is not "1984", this is 2011 and people are even more individualistic now than they were when Orwell wrote that book.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Do you realize how often you already use Open Source developed software without having "any actual work to do"? User have no obligation to dig into software just because it happens to be Open Source; they have the option to do so. In many cases, user's won't choose to do so. That doesn't stop them from benefiting from the development model and peer review involved. Heck, even apple's products are developed on top of an Open Source base; Darwin, a distribution or fork of BSD. Are you suggesting that people can't get any work done on a Macbook just because it happens to be based on a FOSS developed back end? Are people tossing there Ipads off balconies in frustration because of the FOSS developed based OS sitting behind Apple's proprietary GUI? So, people couldn't get work done with Symbian based devices because they happen to use an Open Source OS? All those other mobile phones that happen to have a linux kernel in them are stopping people from getting work done? Are you seeing large amounts of the population unable to use GPS units because they happen to have FOSS licensed software in them? Why do you suggest that the development model directly equates to "user is obligated to dig under the hood and muck with the device instead of simply using the features it's shipped with"? Don't mistake a few poor implementations as representative of all products that happen to use FOSS code in them somewhere. Chances are, your not aware of even half the FOSS based devices you interact with in a day while getting your work done. And really, you shouldn't be as a disinterested end user.

apotheon
apotheon

Guided evolution, in an open development process, leads to better outcomes in the long run. A more stable, more secure, more functional system is the result, once the system has had time to get into its groove. This is, of course, why FreeBSD (for example) is more stable, more secure, and more functional than MS Windows. > The phone is an appliance and I expect it to work as one Don't get a smartphone, then. A smartphone is a computer -- a somewhat general-purpose computer that happens to have built-in telephony capabilities. If you just want a telephone appliance, you need to avoid smartphones.