back to article Google hits Android dev with cease-and-desist letter

Google has sent one of the most prolific independent developers for the Android phone a letter demanding he stop distributing software that greatly expands the capabilities of the fledgling smartphone operating system. Neither Google nor the developer, who goes by the handle Cyanogen, is saying much about the cease and desist …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its a pity

    He's a good programmer, I like his modded version but I can understand why Google aren't too happy.

    Of course they could just offer him a job which would give Android a huge leap forward.

  2. Pirate Dave Silver badge


    would Google care if the guy is distributing apps that Google gives away for free? I'd think they would appreciate it - saves them some bandwidth and they get to brag about how the Android folks just love googlemaps and gmail and can't get enough google goodness.

  3. Shadowfirebird

    So much for "do no evil"

    I may finally have to come around to the view that Google are no longer living up to "Do No Evil". (I'm sure some of you will think I'm slow. Tough.)

    What this looks like is Google throwing an Apple-style app-wobbly. Perhaps there is something else behind it.

    Surely the real "Do No Evil" move would be to offer to make this guy's code official? Or if they can't do that, release an API for their proprietry apps, or something?

    What exactly do they have to lose, except a product that makes their phones more awesome?

  4. northern monkey


    It's hardly an apple style wobbler - as I understand it he's actually redistributing their apps, and it's only their closed source apps they seem to object to. If Apple threw a wobbler if some apple developer started redistributing itunes with their software I'd not blame them either - an apple style wobbler is not letting people run your OS on anything but your machine, randomly bouncing apps off the appstore for no apparent reason and developing an irrational and childish dislike for an online IT news source.

  5. Dave 120

    Easy to fix

    Make the closed source apps available on the android market and they can be downloaded post install. job done.

  6. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Planck hits Einstein with ...

    ... cease and desist letter.

    Ultraviolet Catastrophe avoided.

  7. Shadowfirebird

    @northern monkey

    Okay, a *mini*-Apple wobbler then. Point taken.

    I still don't understand why these apps are closed source anyway. Do Google make money from them somehow? (I know, comparing fish and elephants.)

    And as Dave 120 suggests, there must be 100 ways to sort this without the use of C&D letters.

  8. Mage Silver badge


    May be open source.

    But it's about Google and Operator control of the handset.

  9. Robinson
    Jobs Halo


    You can see their point. He's basically taking over the OS. Sure, they should support all of these popular features but they want to control the platform, don't they? It's theirs after all! If he wants, I guess he can do something from the groud up rather than extending their work.

  10. Gary F 1

    Bloody Apple

    Those B**tards at Apple!

    Who do they think they are? Why do they try to stop developers and end users putting what they like on the phones they have purchased?

    Nazis! They shouldn't try to control content and.....

    What?........ It wasn't Apple.

    It's Google?........ Oh damn how do I delete this post.

    I'm a Reg reader and Apple hater. I can't criticise the Nerd saviours at Google.

    Apple are Bad. All hail Palm...... No, I mean Google.... Aaarrgh must find a way to blame Apple for this.


  11. Andrew Stevenson

    Is it about the installer?

    Is the OS installer not part of the open source stuff?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too late to put the lid on now

    There are superior offerings to most of Google's proprietary applications on Android market already, and some like Google Maps can also be found there. I guess this really is about the market application itself. Maybe the time has come for the android community to break free and create their own software distribution kit. Google is going to have a really hard time if they want to put some form of lid on Android now that the source has been out for so long and with the hardware being well documented, as opposed to the former closed development of handsets.

  13. Tankut Erinc


    In essence, is Android open source because it is a Trojan Horse? Is it because Google can leverage its "services" on pocketable devices better, and reap the adsense dollars?

    There is an ethics discussion here, which may prove his beardedness Mr Stallman was right all along. A question of Honesty.

    So, the term "Open Source" does not carry the political baggage that goes along with the term "Free Software".

    If Android has closed key components, it is not Open. Not all the way.

    Now we know the Draconian iphone OS(X) is tightly closed, and jealously guarded. Another "closed" handheld OS, the Windows Mobile, is also protected by copyrights, but practically is as open and extensible as can be, provided that the core is paid for. They are very dissimilar in essence (I am not talking about kludginess, user interface zen, control freakishness or reality distortion fields) : I can legally have a home-made app/python script running on one, and not the other. But both operating systems, for better or worse, are proprietary.

    Now these two are honest. They make no pretense of being "Open". You can't -at your whim- disassemble, modify and redistribute them legally.

    Operating systems are much like political systems. You live "under" them, use their services, pay their dues, obey their rules, try to live with their idiosyncracies. On the scale of freedom of action, the (according to the users anyway) nirvana of iphone is a fascist dictatorship, windows mobile is a red-tape bound bureucratic but mostly benign monarcy.

    Free Software is akin to a democracy -bordering on polite political anarchy- where the individual has all the options (but one - turn it into a totalitarian one), also including unwise choices.

    So now it turns out Android was not as Open as was promised. Cease-and-desist is a bad way to point this out, especially for a company that has such a wonderful "Do No Evil" motto. I am sure many a workable solution was possible. Anything that wasn't as litigously trigger happy as a C&D.

    But at the end of the day the fact I wrote this and you have read it proves only we are Geeks. People largely don't care for such issues. So they will buy iphones for the fart jokes and the games and the occasional cool/useful/slick app and mostly for the image/me too factor; Crackberries for the battery life and the thumbboard and actually the company e-mail tethered leash; windows mobile for exchange and windows compatibility and the tinkering; palm pre for the cool factor/Saab owner creds; Android for Google geekery; and finally Nokia/Samsung/LG/SE "dumbphone" as the smart choice: maybe the camera and walkman - but actually the phone. You know, to talk to people and stuff.

  14. PaulR79

    Second the "put them on market" idea

    The easiest solution for all people concerned, that includes all the other ROM developers, is for Google to put all their apps on the market to be downloaded. Right now they have most of them but there's no Google Mail or YouTube unless I somehow missed them on the market.

    The only 'person' this harms is Google because it makes them look bad in some people's eyes. Their apps may be closed source but they're given freely and Cyanogen doesn't charge for what he does even if he is distributing them without Google's permission. It'll make some go to competing products and that will cost Google too.

    Either put the apps, all of them, on the market or find a way to allow devs like Cyanogen to distribute them. The C&D order is not the best way to encourage developers and they would've been better served opening a dialogue with him and finding a way that works for all parties.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buy him, don't cease and desist him

    crazy, Google has enough cash to make a lone hacker join their team.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    He's obviously doing a much better job than Google... so just hire him. Win for both sides.

  17. My New Handle

    Is it really that hard to understand?

    Android is open source.

    Google's own apps that it places on that OS are not open source.

    Why is there this persistent notion that an open source OS means that any and all apps developed for it are also open source? They clearly are not if the licence terms of the application say so.

    That Google choose to give away their closed source apps does not qualify them as open. In the end, Google have absolute right to issue the C&D letter if they do not want their apps redistributed or incorporated in branches of the Google Android OS.

    It really is not that difficult children.

  18. Giles Jones Gold badge

    There's no free open mobile OS

    Except maybe OpenMoko but that hardly took the market by storm.

    Google want it both ways, open source hype and commercial benefits. But it's hard to know where you stand with Google.

    At least Microsoft's licence is pretty clear and you know that with Apple you have to tread carefully with your application.

  19. wv9e


    While Google and others like it, you all know them, offer important resources to net users, there is a very sharp double edged sword here.

    The reverse side of which is the potential for evil doing. We don't need anyone tracking our internet use, what sites we visit, who we mail or VoiP wth. I cringed every time I heard some

    country made a deal with Google to supply it's "services". or some new application created by

    them for a phone or whatever. 1984 was only off by 20 years... be warned.

  20. Gulfie

    I want to break free

    I want to break free. I want to break free from your lies. Youre so self satisfied I dont need you...

    OK enough with the Queen references already.

    But seriously - In once sense this is the best news that the punter has had in some time. Somebody is demonstrating that Android (as a platform at least, thanks Google) can legally be picked up, modded, and most importantly, legally installed on existing Android-compatible handsets with no interference from the mobile network, handset manufacturer or original OS dev team. So we can now have our feature-rich devices without being dictated to.

    What's needed is a supporting community to develop alternatives to the apps that Google are saying are closed source and are not available through the marketplace.

    Hell if this looks good enough I may not only replace my iPhone with an Android phone, I might help out myself...

  21. ratfox
    Thumb Down

    It does remind of Apple/Palm

    From my point of view of end user, exactly the same. Before it was cool and it worked, and now it does not, for roundabout reasons of "must stop other people profiting of the hard work we put into something we are offering for free."

    I am not impressed with Google.

  22. riddelln

    PR Disaster

    This is a PR disaster for Google. They've just killed a 30,000 strong community of Android enthusiasts in one foul swoop.

    I was an avid user of most Google services and really loved the cyanogen roms. I personally will be closing my google apps enterprise accounts and switching from android. I understand their position to a point - but this is just completely idiotic.

    Bye, bye Android and thanks for all of your wonderful work cyanogen.

  23. Chris Pearson

    Slide Me will benifit

    If this is how google is going to play is (which doesn't fuss me as from what I can tell the new Hero ROM covers all my bases) then Slide me can only grow and benifit from it.

    (slide me being an alternative to android market)

    Bottom line at least 75% of android users won't care as they aren't cyanogen target anyway.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Boot on the other foot

    "Unauthorized distribution of this software harms us just like it would any other business, even if it's done with the best of intentions."

    I guess the developer could just shout "la, la, la!" and claim he isn't doing anything morally wrong, just like Google did with ffmpeg.

  25. Keith Oldham


    Strange name though - cyanogen is a pseudo-halogen, a very toxic gas.

    N#C-C#N ( that's Nitrogen triple bond carbon - carbon triple bond nitrogen ) close relative of cyanide.

    I'll just get my (lab) coat

  26. Matthew Wilkes
    Big Brother

    Can't put them on the market

    These apps are Google's leverage against the carriers. They need to have signed agreements with google to distribute these phones. We've all dealt with mobile phone operators, and I'm sure you'll agree that I can't describe them here and get past the moderatrix.

    I trust Google's "don't be evil" (even if it's not as strong as it used to be) over T-Mobile any day. These are the same people who are slowly having their business eroded by EU regulations banning their excessive charges.

    These apps need to be impossible for end users to get, otherwise why would carriers want to get into bed with Google? It's a shame they've gone after this, but I can see why they've had to.

  27. Grozbat
    Thumb Down

    Changes coming?

    I can see that "Do no evil" changing to "Do less evil than others".

    This won't be the last change, of course.

  28. Paul 190

    Hold on...

    Didn't these closed-source apps come included with the very phones people are installing them back onto?

    As long as he's not modifying them... what's the problem?

  29. James Hughes 1

    @My New Handle

    Well said that man.

    It's Google's software. Their closed license. They can do what they like with it.

    Whether what they are doing is a good idea, time will tell.

  30. Anonymous Coward


    Hmmm. Looks like your toys are on the floor. Would you like me to pass them back to you?

    And 'moving away from Android' is really just cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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