back to article Oracle suit outs Google's closed source Android tactics

Oracle's lawsuit against Google over its Android mobile operating system has turned up an internal Google presentation that plainly shows how the web giant shares closed source Android code with select partners to ensure they play by its rules. "If we gave [Android] away, how do we ensure we get benefit from it? [We] create …


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  1. Turtle

    Calling Wilmer Cook! Calling Wilmer Cook!

    "But the presentation – first noticed by blogger Florian Muller – merely confirms the obvious." And yet some will continue to deny it.

    Reading further, we see the name of Andy Rubin, yet again - as if being spotlighted in the Oracle and Apple lawsuits were not enough! One could easily imagine his bosses at Google nominating him for a corporate role not unlike that played by Elisha Cook Jr in "The Maltese Falcon".

  2. Oninoshiko

    I dont understand the problem with...

    closed development with a periodic code drop (at the time of release). Every major "free software" license I can think of permits this, many vendors do it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don't have a problem with it either

      What I do have a problem with is this myth about Android being open when it is abundantly clear that it is anything but.

      I do sympathise with Google though, as Nokia struggled for years with the Maemo (and eventually MeeGo) and the challenges of developing new (and often unannounced) products and OS updates in a transparent fashion..

      1. DrXym

        Anything but?

        You can go and clone the Android 2.x tree and do anything you like with it. Seems pretty open to me.

        3.x is definitely not open (ostensibly because it's not clean but probably because of Amazon and other threats) so we'll have to see what happens when Ice Cream Sandwich appears when the phone / tablet code is cleaned up and merged if Google come through on their promise to open it up again.

      2. mcepl
        Thumb Down

        It isn't in FLOSS

        I completely disagree with the implication that Nokia's failure with Maemo is somehow related to it being developed in open. The only cause of their upcoming demise (no, I don't believe their self-sacrifice on the Microsoft's altar will be enough to save WM7) is complete idiocy and lack of focus of their leadership far far before Mr. Elop took reins (and no, he didn't help it either).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @It isn't in FLOSS

          Great, because I didn't say Nokia failed with Maemo because it was developed in the open.

          What I am saying, and this is verifiable if you have followed Maemo and MeeGo development, is that Nokia always struggled to balance the transparent development of an open source OS with it's associated unannounced hardware products that would depend upon as yet unimplemented OS features.

          Nokia could/would not openly discuss these new OS features, or publish any source code, which related to these unannounced products. This was a scenario that was repeated several times with Maemo from the original 770 onwards.

          At least Google doesn't have that problem or excuse.

    2. AdamWill

      there's a difference between 'what the license allows' and 'best practice'. To anyone involved in 'traditional' F/OSS development, stuff like an SCM with the latest development code, an open bug tracker with actual developer involvement (unlike android's, which mostly functions as a black hole), and open mailing lists are pretty much part of 'the system'. A project like Android (2.x, excluding gapps), which does code dumps and rarely accepts outside contributions, is free in terms of licensing, sure, but it doesn't function anything at all like a more conventional F/OSS project.

      Is there a legal problem? No. Everything's perfectly above board. But it's not really an open project in several practical senses. You can fork Android, but you can't really contribute anything back to it, or follow current development.

      In the long term, of course, this is *bad* for Android, and Google will realize this at some point. It's a major reason why every Android hardware developer tends to maintain its own fork of Android with support for its own particular hardware implementations - a very wasteful practice. CodeAurora is an initial response to this, and I wouldn't be surprised if Android starts taking baby steps towards more conventional open development practices in future.

    3. N13L5

      Even if there are certain iffy things for some people in this semi-open method of Google, It sure beats M$ and Crapple with their ALL closed 100% of the time prison cells...

      As for hardware vendors: if Google pisses you off, just fork it :P

  3. Blain Hamon

    Right, let's get this over with.

    Random trolling about definition of open and evil. Random trolling about iPhone and walled garden. Flames and counter-flames. Clucking and taking about corporate practices. Counterarguments about this being standard for businesses. Mentions of Oracle somewhere in there. Incompatible ideological rants with regards to patents, trolling, lawsuits, and the like.

    Did I forget anything? Oh, right, conspiracy theories and talk of market share. Now that that's settled, let's talk about interesting and new aspects of this.

    I'm interested to see how second-tier Android OEMs react to the dirty laundry. Perhaps sly calls to MSFT or HP?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or maybe a not so sly call to

      The Linux Foundation... "Hello, MeeGo" - at least then they'll be on a more level playing field with each other, and can help fsck over both Google and Microsoft.

    2. .stu

      God wins

      You forgot to mention the nazis.

    3. Paul Shirley

      Florian Muller is the anti-Cassandra

      You missed Florian Muller from the list, the guarantee there's less to a story than it appears.

      Florian is the anti-Cassandra. Always listened to. Never right.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You, Sir, you said it all brilliantly!

        I raise my hat to you.

        I wanted to chose the beer as an icon but the new house rules do not allow me that.

    4. AdamWill

      worth noting

      the distinction isn't really 'first tier' versus 'second tier' android OEMs, but those who want to play by Google's rules versus those who don't. There are some pretty small companies in the first group, and some moderately big ones in the second group (biggest example I can think of is Archos, plus Amazon and B&N through their Android-based but not Google-approved e-readers).

      it's really a trade-off: if you play by Google's rules you get dev help, the latest code, and Google apps: if you don't, you get code dumps and no Google apps, but a lot more flexibility in what you can do with the code. For some projects, like Amazon and B&N's, the second approach is clearly more sensible. Would it be nicer if Google let everyone use the Google apps and get access to all the latest code? well, sure. But everyone pretty much goes in with their eyes open, at least, and non-Google-approved-Android is still clearly a good enough option for quite a lot of cases.

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Oracle vs Google

    I have to make a choice between the lesser of two evils?

    Can I kick them both please?

    Both these companies have more money than God ... would it kill either of them to start behaving themselves and start treating their customers like normal human beings?


      Hysterical Nonsense

      There is nothing about the GPL that requires the development process be open.

      Google can hide their development process as much as they like. The GPL and similar licenses only come into play when they choose to ship product. At that point, and only at that point, do they have a legal requirement to disclose source code along with their product.

      This is just mindless FUD with a well known blogger-instigator getting in on the fun.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        For someone so loose with the term "fanboy", you sure look like one yourself. What is you normally say? "More fandroid nonsense...", paraphrased of course. For all the noise about 'lock-in' that you make, I strikes me that you in the Open Politburo have an "our way or the highway" approach to freedom that Stalin would be proud of.

        1. JEDIDIAH


          > I strikes me that you in the Open Politburo have an "our

          > way or the highway" approach to freedom that Stalin would

          > be proud of.

          This is just stupid nonsense.

          There is no "politburo" mentality at work here.

          What there is here is a predefined legal framework created by those developers who originally created the works that Google is deriving from. Someone created code. That same someone released it under a particular license. That license is the only thing relevant here. It is the only thing that determines what is or is not "correct".

          Some people with an obvious agenda are trying to muddle the issue here.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        I'm not a lawyer, but if they release beta software to favoured partners...

        ...then don't they have to release that beta version to everybody?

        I mean, yes, a closed beta operating system is common practice in the industry, but the GPL -exists- to exclude activities that are common practice in the industry.

        Then again, not all software on a Linux system - which Android is - must be GPL. Android Market apps don't have to be GPL. Linux is public anyway, and they can use a different licence for other software on the device that is part of the Android package - maybe. Did I mention I'm not a lawyer? I did.

        1. Ru

          "don't they have to release that beta version to everybody?"

          Not really. If you distribute a binary built from GPL source, you have to make that source available to people you distribute it to. You don't have to share it with the world until you distribute those binaries worldwide.

          Google also can't stop their partners redistributing that source, so in theory they could simply release it all to the public. But that rather stops them getting any nice deals from Google in future, so they don't.

          IANAL, or a GPL weenie. I've always advocated the ISC or 2 or 3 clause BSD licenses myself. This would all have been much less of an issue if they'd just used NetBSD from the get-go ;-)

        2. Oninoshiko

          no, they are only obligated to offer to give the source to anyone they distribute a binary to. Because they only gave beta binaries to their partners, they are only obligated to give source to those partners.

          Any shipping of it on end-user devices is up to the individual vendors, who should have copies of the code. If they cannot distribute under the GPL (because they cannot distribute the code, for whatever reason) they cannot distribute the code.

          Even then, as long as the offer is made, if noone has taken them up on it, they don't have to do anything.

          1. DrXym

            Not even that

            "no, they are only obligated to offer to give the source to anyone they distribute a binary to."

            Virtually all the bits that matter are BSD licenced so not even that. GPL kernel yes, the rest, whenever it suits Google or not at all. They would however likely provide partners with access to the souce simply because it's kind of hard to develop a tablet without having the source for the OS that runs on top of it.

      3. DrXym

        Android doesn't use the GPL much

        The kernel is GPL v2. User land is BSD based. There is no obligation for Google to open source any of their stuff except when they feel like it or not at all.

      4. Tom 38

        Re: Hysterical Nonsense

        Look, I know Honeycomb Android tablets aren't exactly flying off the shelves, but to characterize it as 'not shipping' is a bit harsh. Badda-boom-tish, I'm here all week, tip your waiters.

        I think they get away with this legally, but I'm not sure why. If I tried to do that, I'd probably be called a GPL violator.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Your post is Hysterical Nonsense as Android isn't GPL software.

      6. AdamWill

        "There is nothing about the GPL that requires the development process be open."

        I don't see anyone claiming that there is. I don't see any kind of GPL / legal issue raised in the article.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Treating customers like normal human beings

      is insane. Oh, and bad for business too.

      By the way, companies prefer to call them consumers not customers.

    3. Oninoshiko

      More money then god?

      I'm not so sure... I mean I suppose if we ONLY count cash, I guess, but if you account for the value of the art and historical artifacts in the possession of the Holy See...

  5. Anonymous Coward

    A gentlemen's agreement...

    ...will only work when there are only gentlemen involved.

    The more this goes on the more do I wonder if the people behind some of the OSS licenses actually had these kinds of scenario's in mind when they setup the license in the first place. For example; I could imagine that the idea behind some licenses might be to make sure that the source code will always be distributed amongst (active) participants whereas 3rd parties (end users) will have to wait their turn.

    And until those people speak up there really is little left to discuss and argument but opinions. IMO that is of course :-)

    Still, what I think to be a big issue is that many people tend to forget that companies will /always/ keep a double agenda. Not talking good or evil here; talking moral ethics and economic ethics. Some decisions may not considered to be "moral" but could still have economic importance. Because in the end; without economic value a company won't survive. Period.

    What is good for the company doesn't always have to be good for the public. And until we keep that reality in the back of our minds a lot of heated discussions could actually start to make more sense.

    Once again; IMO of course.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    It is surprising

    that after all these years a huge chunk of the world+dog brilliantly fails to understand that open source is a pretty arrangement of smoke and mirrors cleverly designed to mask the harsh realities of proprietary software (a.k.a. vendor lock-in). The fact that you have access to the source code guarantees in no way your freedoms nor the fact that you will be treated fair.

    Google's Android either open or close is not free as in freedom so why do those companies complain ? Yes, Google behavior is not moral but is well within the limits of standard business practice.

    I know Google's motto is "Don't be evil" but hey, they never promised that. And even if they did it, they are a (big) corporation after all so are not required to keep their promise.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    OSS or Free?

    OMG! You mean there's a difference between Open Source and Free (Libre) Software.

    (Paris? Because she's never had Stallman over!)

  8. DrXym

    Well duh

    So Google's friends get preferential treatment. Everyone else gets to see the stuff when it's done.

  9. Dirk Vandenheuvel


    Seriously... did all the Android hardware companies think that they would get a free lunch?

  10. RichyS
    Thumb Down

    Dear Andy Rubin

    So, this is the definition of open.

    Are we going to get a new tweet?

  11. cloudgazer

    Can we stop fetishizing 'Open'?

    For starters it's a lot more important to comply with open standards than it is to be based on open code. Google and Apple are both good citizens in this regard, with Webkit adhering closely to open web standards and Chrome not in anyway dickering with that.

    A perfectly open OS invariably turns into a disaster area for consumers, which has certainly been the result for Linux, too many slightly incompatible distros fighting for too few seats. That Android isn't perfectly open is both good for Google and good for users, heck it might be better if it was even less open because the upcoming wave of fragmentation isn't going to do them any favours.

    TL/DR - openness matters for cross-platform tools and systems, but for platforms themselves it's a mixed bag.

  12. shameek


    So Google gives hardware manufacturers a sneak peak of the software in exchange for building to a particular specification. Well how else are they going to test Android! Kinda helps to have Motorola in the fold to make the reference platform process quicker and simpler. Does this provide any advantage - well if Xoom is anything to go by, no it doesnt.

    Epic Fail

  13. r_a_trip

    Not what the GPL says

    ***...then don't they have to release that beta version to everybody?***

    No. They only need to release the GPL sources to the selected partners. GPL creates obligations between the distributor and the recipient, not between the distributor and just anybody.

    Since Android is not a pure GPL play, they can put distribution restrictions on the Apache parts. So selected partners can't redistribute the whole package, merely just the GPL parts, as these may not be further restricted.

    But what good is just the low level plumbing, when the magic is happening within Dalvik?

  14. Carl Pearson

    #Define Open

    The solution is simple: Google sells Android to Oracle.

    Those guys are *so good* at open source, it'll be forked within a year.

    Perhaps it will be called "Lor".

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