Does Google have too much control over Android?

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Today in Open Source: Does Google rule Android with an iron fist? Plus: A review of Lubuntu 13.10, and Carmack is skeptical about SteamOS

Does Google Have Too Much Control Over Android?

Ars Technica takes a look at Google's tight control over Android. It's not quite as "open" as you might have thought.

If a company even wanted to consider forking Android and creating a viable commercial competitor, they would have to replicate everything in this article. Even then, you've only broken even. You would still have to give your users a reason to switch from Google's Android to your fork of Android.

Google does everything in-house. The company gets Maps and all of its cloud services basically for free. Any company trying to follow in these footsteps will probably have to outsource something on this list. Amazon having to license Nokia's Map data is an excellent example. Google sells ads against Maps—it actually makes the company money—while Amazon has to pay a per-user fee for its mapping data. This is the kind of radically different income situation an Android forker will be facing on a daily basis. Google's services cost less than nothing, and anyone competing will end up paying a monthly fee to some other company.

If a company does manage to fork Android and make something compelling outside of Google's ecosystem, there's the little matter of nearly every manufacturer being contractually barred from manufacturing a device that runs the new OS. Even if this new Android derivative is better, for an OEM jumping out of the Google ecosystem, it's probably more trouble—and risk—than it's worth.

While Android is open, it's more of a "look but don't touch" kind of open. You're allowed to contribute to Android and allowed to use it for little hobbies, but in nearly every area, the deck is stacked against anyone trying to use Android without Google's blessing. The second you try to take Android and do something that Google doesn't approve of, it will bring the world crashing down upon you.

More at Ars Technica

Well there's a bit of an eye-opener for anybody who thought that Android was totally open and that Google wasn't really in control of it.

I really can't blame Google to a certain degree, they're obviously paranoid about somebody walking off with Android and beating them in the marketplace. But the Ars article certainly rips the lid off the idea that Android can be taken easily by another company.

Lubuntu 13.10 Review

I'm rolling right along with my reviews of the buntus on Desktop Linux Reviews. I've got a fresh review of Lubuntu 13.10 up today.

Sometimes less can be much, much more when it comes to Linux distributions. Lubuntu 13.10 offers some of the advantages of Ubuntu but in a much more minimalist package. Lubuntu uses the LXDE desktop environment instead of Unity, and it contains less software than Ubuntu 13.10.

For example, you won’t find LibreOffice bundled into Lubuntu; instead you get Abiword and Gnumeric as your default office applications. Don’t worry though, if you really want LibreOffice then you can easily download it via the Lubuntu Software Center (more on that later).

More at Desktop Linux Reviews

John Carmack Skeptical About SteamOS Success

John Carmack isn't sure if Valve will actually be able to succeed with its SteamOS devices for the living room, according to the Verge.

So why isn't Carmack convinced Valve can reproduce that success, this time in the living room? "I'm afraid that I may be at that same point right now where I'm like, 'Making your own sort of little console OS? Are you crazy?' And, you know, maybe 10 years from now, they're going to look like brilliant prophets again with it."

But Carmack said, "it still seems a little bit dicey to me, getting everything moved over to Linux, pushing from that side of things." Still, Valve's track record is evidence that the company may just be able to pull it off. "If it was some other random company, I would be pseudo-scornful, but it's Valve, so I'm not."

The relevant part of the discussion starts at the 29:49 mark in the video below.

More at The Verge

Like many people, I have a lot of respect for Carmack's history in the gaming industry, but I really hope he's wrong about this. I'm rooting for Valve to succeed wildly with SteamOS, it could be one of the best things to ever happen to gaming.

What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.

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