Is Android too open for Google to retain control?

Today in Open Source: Android's openness may cause problems for Google. Plus: Make Linux look like Windows 8, and the beards of Linux users

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Will Google lose control of Android?

CITEworld thinks that the openness of Android may end up causing problems for Google.

But being open, Google faces a similar issue that Oracle has run into around MySQL. It's all well and good for a large corporate entity to try and control an open source project, but you can't really stop forking if that's someone's intention once it's out there. People wary of Oracle's control over MySQL created MariaDB, and many (including Google) are dumping MySQL for it because it's similar enough without Oracle having its tentacles in it.

Google faces a similar problem with Android. Amazon certainly wasn't afraid to fork it and Google could begin to see more attempts to attack its control over the project by creating forks.

More at CITEworld
Fork Android
Image credit: The ISecLab Blog

I don't see what the problem is with forking Android. If it's truly an open project then tough bungies for Google if it gets forked. If Google had truly wanted to prevent that and retain total control then they should never have made Android open in any way whatsoever.

However, Google wanted to stop Apple from dominating the mobile device market so they came up with Android and made it an open project. We can debate just how open it really is (certainly not as much as Firefox OS or Ubuntu), but the fundamental truth is that Android isn't iOS or Windows. It is forkable, though not necessarily in an easy way.

Ars Technica has a good overview of the difficulties inherent in trying to fork Android.

If Android were an open platform in the way that Firefox OS or Ubuntu for smartphones were an open platform, the forking suggestion would make more sense. The AOSP/GMS split wouldn't exist. Everything would be in AOSP, so piecemeal substitution of back-end services without having to reinvent vast tracts of code and without any major compatibility implications would be practical.

But it isn't. Not only is it not this kind of an open platform, but Google is actively working to make it functionally less open with each new release. The result is that a forker has to make a choice: they can give Google control and get the all the upsides of the platform, or they can snatch control from Google and get almost none of them.

More at Ars Technica

So it's clear that Google has gone out of its way to make forking Android a headache for anyone who wants to do it. It's not impossible of course, but Google's determination to avoid forking seems to assure that the company is no real danger of losing control of Android any time soon.

It's very tough for me to have any sympathy for Google at this point. It seems to me that the company wants to have it both ways. They wanted an open system, but they seem to be grasping at any straw that lets them keep as much control as possible.

In the long run it might be better for Android users if Google really did lose control of Android. Google could simply opt to replace Android with some variant of Chrome OS, and Android itself could morph into a truly open option for anyone to use as they see fit.

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