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In the great mobile-device wars, Google (GOOG) has portrayed itself as the open-source crusader doing battle against the leaders in proprietary software—Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Research In Motion (RIM:CN).

Unlike its rivals, Google makes the underlying code for its popular Android operating system publicly available, and anyone can access it and tailor it for use in mobile phones, tablets, television set-top boxes, even automobiles.

So what happens when Google decides to keep the latest version of its operating system to itself? Android fans are about to find out.
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I think there's a strong correlation here with the fact that Motorola (Android's biggest proponent) yesterday announced it's developing its own tablet OS

Apple, RIM, HP and Motorola have now all said that they need to control the software on their hardware in order to be successful in this space, and Android's challenges re: malware and fragmentation are well publicized.

Could this mark a shift in strategy for open source mobile OS? Probably not completely, but I think that Google recognises that the wild west approach that they have pursued is more exciting to nerds than it is to investors and general consumers.
 

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That's not it. Honeycomb isn't ready for anything but big tablet screens. What they're worried about is that if they release the source code companies like Archos and Viewsonic are going to take it and try and put it on all kinds of devices, including small phone-sized screens. People will then buy those devices and blame Google, rather than the manufacturer, for the terrible user experience. It would be like all the cheap tablets running Android 2.X, just far worse.

They're not worried about the mod community, people understand when they install a custom ROM that it won't be perfect. They're much more worried about the rogue OEMs.
 

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But isn't the whole point of Android is that its open source and developers are free to do what they want with it?

Can Google close Android?
 

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Android isn't open source in the same way as Chromium. Google works on the code and when a version of Android is done they release the source code for anyone to play with it. But you can't see what they're doing as they're doing it.

The problem with Honeycomb is that while it's "done" for tablets, it doesn't work on phones yet and they want that to work before they release the source.
 

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I have to assume though that its not open because Google is giving it to some, but not others.

So can they close it or do they have to ultimately give to the community what they gave motorola?
 

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I have to assume though that its not open because Google is giving it to some, but not others.
Generally speaking, with GPL, you only have to release your source when you release the product. You could, for example, develop a great in house app, but you wouldn't have to release the source, as you haven't released the final product. So, when Google releases it as a finished product, you should be able to get the source at that time.
 

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Isn't the Honeycomb based Xoom released yet (well, Amazon suggests the Wifi version will be released tomorrow)? So, in fact, Honeycomb (i.e., Android 3.0) is a finished product.
 

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Android itself isn't a GPL licensed system. So they're under no obligation to release the source code. The Apache license doesn't contain the viral aspects of the GPL.

The Linux parts are and I'd imagine those are in fact available.

As a note, the GPL doesn't require you to give everyone the source to your product. You only have to give it to people who are your customers.
You can't restrict them from giving it away to other people, but you yourself don't have to help 3rd parties who aren't customers.
 

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Google closes the Android door a little...

...or a lot, depending on your interpretation. Many will decry this move, but I believe its absolutely necessary for Android to remain a decent competitor to iOS. Like Apple has proven, and Motorola, RIM, HP agree, the hardware and software most be closely managed together, lest we suffer the same grief as the PC era.

Playtime is over in Android Land. Over the last couple of months Google (GOOG) has reached out to the major carriers and device makers backing its mobile operating system with a message: There will be no more willy-nilly tweaks to the software. No more partnerships formed outside of Google's purview. From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google's most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans. And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Android group.
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_15/b4223041200216.htm
 

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And yet, http://source.android.com/ still says:

Android is an open-source software stack for mobile devices, and a corresponding open-source project led by Google. We created Android in response to our own experiences launching mobile apps. We wanted to make sure that there was no central point of failure, so that no industry player can restrict or control the innovations of any other. That's why we created Android, and made its source code open.
I'd like to hear how Google manages to exclude itself from being an industry player.
 

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Because anybody can still access Android's source code and use it, but if you want to work with Google and get access to things before they're finished, as well as have legal access to the Android market and Google Apps, you need to play by their rules.
 

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I don't pay too much attention to what goes behind open source projects but I do know that for the open source software that I do use (Firefox, VLC, etc.) I can access the latest code, warts and all, through the source repositories. Also, since Honeycomb tablets are now shipping, shouldn't Honeycomb be considered "finished"?
 
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