Distilling market noise into market sense

VisionMobile is the leading research company in the app economy. Our Developer Economics research program tracks developer experiences across platforms, revenues, apps, tools, APIs, segments and regions, via the largest, most global developer surveys.

Is Android Evil?

[Is Android really open? Research Director Andreas Constantinou uncovers the many control points behind Android and explains why Android might be the most closed system in the history of open source].
The article is also available in Chinese and

You thought Android was open? The Android governance model consists of an elaborate set of control points that allows Google to bundle its own services and control the exact software and hardware make-up on every handset. All this while touting the openness rhetoric that is founded on the Apache permissive license used in the Android SDK.

[updated in response to reader comments]: Whereas Android is completely open for the software developer ecosystem, it’s completely closed for the handset OEM (pre-load) ecosystem. There is no other platform which is so asymmetrical in terms of its governance structures.

Indeed, Google’s mobile platform is the smartest implementation of open source designed for driving commercial agendas. But before we dig into why, it’s worth discussing why Android’s success has very little to do with open source.

What makes Android tick
Despite early skepticism, Google’s Android operating system has been unequivocally supported by the mobile industry, including more network operators and handset manufacturers than one can count – with the stubborn exception of Nokia. Android managed to ramp from 1 handset model in 2008 to 50+ models announced for 2010 launch, leaving most industry observers in awe.

The Android success has nothing to do with open source; it’s owed to three key factors:

Apple. As strange as it might seem, Android owes much of its success to one of its arch-rivals. Let me explain. With the unprecedented success of the iPhone and the take-it-or-leave-it terms dictated by Apple to network operators, the carriers have been eagerly looking for cheaper alternatives; as such the tier-1 operators have been embarking on Android projects to produce iPhones for people who can’t afford the iPhone and more importantly, without forking out the 300EUR+ subsidy needed to remain competitive in an iPhone market.

Network operators/carriers around the world are eager to differentiate. Android provides the allure of a unified software platform supporting operator differentiation at a low cost (3 months instead of 12+ months offered by SavaJe, which was also aimed at the MNO customisation market). For larger operators with a software strategy, Android also presents a safe investment, as the mainstream option for bringing down the cost of smartphones. That’s why most Android handset projects are backed by a commercial bipoles of operator + OEM deals, with purchase commitments and NRE fees coming from the operator.

Qualcomm. The $10B chipset vendor has been paramount to Android’s ramp up; manufacturers can take Qualcomm’s hardware reference design which is pre-integrated with Android and can go to market within an estimated 9-12 months (down from 16 months for the Motorola Cliq handset and 24+ months for the HTC G1). Besides Qualcomm we should also mention TI’s OMAP3 platform (on which Moto Droid is based) and ST Ericsson and Broadcom who are ramping up to offer chipsets with out-of-the-box support for Android.

In other words, in an Android handset, most of the OEM budget goes into differentiation; compare that to Symbian where most of the OEM budget goes into baseporting (radio and functional integration of hardware) due to historical choices made by Symbian in 2001. All-in-all, Android allows OEMs to reduce their R&D budgets and invest in differentiation, which is mana from heaven to manufacturers.

We should also not forget the ‘free factor’ (technically zero per-unit royalties for the public SDK) which stirred the emotional hype around Android handsets.

All in all, the ‘open source’ marketing moniker has been very successful at triggering major industry disruption – incl. Nokia ‘s acquisition of Symbian and the derailment of Windows Mobile. Perhaps more importantly, the openness rhetoric and the Google aura has attracted thousands of developers on the platform, at a time when the money equation is sub-par; consider that – compared to the Apple devices – Android handsets are around 9x less in volume and paid-for apps are available in 6x fewer countries.

Behind the Open Source facade
What’s even more fascinating is how closed Android is, despite Google’s old do-no-evil don’t be evil mantra and the permissive Apache 2 license which Android SDK source code is under. Paraphrasing a famous line from Henry Ford’s book on the Model-T, anyone can have Android in their own colour as long as it’s black. Android is the best example of how a company can use open source to build up interest and community participation, while running a very tight commercial model. [updated in response to reader comments:] Again I ‘ll emphasize that the closed aspects of Android apply to the handset OEM (pre-load) ecosystem, not the software developer (post-load) ecosystem (see the comments section for a deep dive into pre-load vs post-load].

How does Google control what services, software and hardware ships in Android handsets? The search giant has built an elaborate system of control points around Android handsets.

To dig deeper we spent two months talking to industry sources close to Android commercials – and the reality has been startling. From a high level, Google uses 8 control points to manage the make-up of Android handsets:

1. Private branches. There are multiple, private codelines available to selected partners (typically the OEM working on an Android project) on a need-to-know basis only. The private codelines are an estimated 6+ months ahead of the public SDK and therefore essential for an OEM to stay competitive. The main motivation for the public SDK and source code is to introduce the latest features (those stemming from private branches) into third party apps.

2.  Closed review process. All code reviewers work for Google, meaning that Google is the only authority that can accept or reject a code submission from the community. There is also a rampant NIH (not invented here) culture inside Google that assumes code written by Googlers is second to none. Ask anyone who’s tried to contribute a patch to Android and you hear the same story: very few contributions get in and often no reason is offered on rejection.

3. Speed of evolution. Google innovates the Android platform at a speed that’s unprecedented for the mobile industry, releasing 4 major updates (1.6  to 2.1) in 18 months. OEMs wanting to build on Android have no choice but to stay close to Google so as not to lose on new features/bug fixes released. The Nexus One, Motorola Droid, HTC G1 and other Experience handsets serve the purpose of innovation testbeds for Google.

4. Incomplete software. The public SDK source code is by no means sufficient to build a handset. Key building blocks missing are radio integration, international language packs, operator packs – and of course Google’s closed source apps like Market, Gmail and GTalk. There are a few custom ROM builders with a full Android stack like the Cyanogen distribution, but these use binaries that are not licensed for distribution in commercial handsets.

5. Gated developer community. Android Market is the exclusive distribution and discovery channel for the 40,000+ apps created by developers; and is available to phone manufacturers on separate agreement. This is one of the strongest control points as no OEM would dare produce a handset that doesn’t tap into the Android Market (perhaps with the exception of DECT phones, picture frames, in-car terminals or other exotic uses of Android). However, one should acknowledge that Android’s acceptance process for Market apps is liberal as it gets – and the complete antithesis of the Apple vetting process for apps.

6. Anti-fragmentation agreement. Little is known about the anti-fragmentation agreement signed by OHA members but we understand it’s a commitment to not release handsets which are not CTS compliant (more on CTS later).

7. Private roadmap. The visibility offered into Android’s roadmap is pathetic. At the time of writing, the roadmap published publicly is a year out of date (Q1 2009). To get a sneak peak into the private roadmap you need Google’s blessing.

8. Android trademark. Google holds the trademark to the Android name; as a manufacturer you can only leverage on the Android branding with approval from Google, much like how you need Sun’s approval to claim your handset is Java-powered.

In short, it’s either the Google way or the highway. If you want to branch off Android you ‘re completely on your own and you need resources of the size of China Mobile (see their OMS effort) to make it viable (hint: China Mobile is the biggest network operator bar none).

The Open Handset Alliance is another myth; since Google managed to attract sufficient industry interest in 2008, the OHA is simply a set of signatures with membership serving only as a VIP Club badge.

Another big chapter in the Android saga is the CTS (compatibility test suite) which is the formal testing process by which a handset passes Google requirements. According to our sources, CTS extends significantly beyond API compliance, and into performance testing, hardware features, device design, UI specs and bundled services. CTS is based on the principle of ensuring baseline compliance, so it’s ok to add features, but it’s not ok to detract; compare this with Apple’s no-Flash policy. Note that beyond CTS compliance, there are additional commercial licensing agreements that OEMs have to sign for Google services and private line access.

CTS hampers Android’s progress as well, as it precludes OEMs from creating stripped-down versions of Android that would fit on mass-market phones – those shipping in the 10s of millions. CTS – and forward compatibility to the pool of 40,000+ apps – is Google’s main challenge for hitting a 2-digit market share in the smartphone market. These restrictions – and frienemy relationship between Google and its OEM partners – have stirred up discussions of an ‘Android foundation‘ within OEM circles

The Google Endgame
With Android, Google aims to deliver a consistent platform to its own revenue-generating services. For now, this is the ad business. But in the future, Google is aiming at voice (reaching the billions who don’t have a data connection) and Checkout (i.e. becoming the Visa of mobile).

Yet whatever the endgame, it’s worth realising that [from the manufacturer perspective] Android is no more open – and no less closed – than [licensable operating systems like] Windows Mobile, Apple OSX or PalmOS, Symbian and BREW; it’s the smartest implementation of open source aimed at driving commercial agendas. Android is much less about the do-no-evil rhetoric that the PR spinners in Mountain View would like us to think.

[Updated in response to readers’ comments:] so, is Android evil? No, it isn’t. It has done no harm – quite the contrary, Android has boosted the level of innovation on mobile software. The point of the article is not to vilify Google or concoct visions of Darth Vader; but to balance the level of openness hysteria with a reality check on the commercial dynamics of mobile open source.

– Andreas
you should follow me on twitter: @andreascon

[we are running on-site business workshops for companies who want to understand the commercials behind Android and OHA. Contact us if you ‘re interested. Or, if you are a mobile developer, voice out your views on Android and other mobile platforms in the biggest mobile developer survey to date. Join in at visionmobile.com/developers]

  • small (huge) mistake: "Symbian’s acquisition of Nokia"

  • Oops! Fixed. Call it commercial dyslexia 😉

  • Julia Fraser

    Great article Andreas!

  • Nice insight and I agree.

    How do the 8 points (modulo the 5th perhaps) make it any different to what has been happening with Symbian/Nokia and Symbian OS for the past 12 years?

    The answer is that for Android Google uses identical rules of engagement for partners and handset manufacturers. The 8 points that you mentioned also apply to what Symbian/Nokia did. Only this time tactics are being executed better and as you say the end-game is different.

    …and btw lets not forget that some OSS is in the core of what Apple use as well 😛

    This industry uses the same play-book again and again it seems.

  • Alexandre Bouillot

    One missing SemiCo in the list would be Marvell, which have a feet in Android and OMS.

    @John, I though Symbian trademark were owned by Symbian Foundation. I have to admit, after browsing on Symbian site, it's not crystal clear.

  • nice work Andreas

    especially this "do not remove features" point which is new to me

    how do you then see the fate of low-cost Android. Some of the chip vendors (STE, BCOM…) are trying to differentiate with lower BoM chips that run Android, but will it work if you can't strip anything out ?

  • Thanks for this great article but I don't really agree with some points, I'll try to detail why.

    As you said "Google innovates the Android platform at a speed that’s unprecedented for the mobile industry" which I think is really great for end-users. Sure it is not so great for manufacturers because they have to follow, but finally it leads to better products. So on this point I think we can't say Android is evil.

    About cyanogen distribution, I use it every day and I think it is really cool that some guy can make such a great Android rom. And I really thing Google likes that the open source community works on those things. Google updates the source code almost everyday on github so developers can take a look at the changes they make. They also included some of the apps included in the Android releases such as the Gallery app on the Nexus One (which is a really good app). On the Nexus One they also make it easy for developers to unlock their device and to install custom distributions. I don't think this kind of efforts has ever been made by other OS.

    As I see it Google has the latest source codes because they have the largest team working on Android. So it would take a lot of efforts for another company to create a different branch and iterate faster than Google. But it's not impossible, cyanogen with other developers already ship features not available on the official Android OS. The ditribution has a few bugs, but it won't take too much efforts to use it on commercial handsets. I don't know what are the "binaries not licensed for distribution" you are talking about?

    On some things I think Google is not really open, (about the Android market for example) but for everything related to the OS source code for me it is really open and not evil.

  • Great piece.

    I would have added an other point — which is a by-product from your point #3 really — about frequent firmware updates putting a permanent pressure — from the end-users — on OEM/MNO.

    If I understand correctly, you get OTA firmware updates direct from Google only when you've got a google phone from your MNO (or direct from Google, with the Nexus One).

    As a MNO, you can only market a gPhone if your volume commitment is large enough, besides, it prevents MNO from stripping down Android from the Google's proprietary apps such as Market…

    However, this great post does not deserve its rather blunt conclusion "Yet whatever the endgame, (…) Android is no more open – and no less closed – than Windows Mobile, Apple OSX or PalmOS; (…) Android is much less about the do-no-evil rhetoric that the PR spinners (…) would like us to think."

  • fjpoblam

    Aside: mistake of rhetoric. The Gorg doesn't tout "Don't do evil". It's "Don't BE evil." They can DO it as long as they don't BE it. Major difference.

  • Irha

    Lots of bullshit in this article. The part that is open (and not evil) is everything but google's proprietary apps. There is nothing stopping from any other web company (such as yahoo) to fork android and integrate their own services and make it available for commercial use.

  • pveera

    You seem to have misunderstood open source.

    A one line retort to all your accusations is that you can fork an Android branch, name it whatever you want and release it as you please and also maintain your own app store.

  • moo

    "Yet whatever the endgame, it’s worth realising that Android is no more open – and no less closed – than Windows Mobile, Apple OSX or PalmOS"

    This is asserted, with absolutely no substantiation.

    Clearly there are aspects of Android that are not "open", and there are control points that Google leverages to retain overall control, but that is not the same as saying it's exactly as unopen as other manufactures.

    OEMs get access to the majority of the source code, the freedom to make many changes like the Sense UI from HTC (they can do this on Palm and Apple, right? oh? no? Surely, on Windows Mobile 7?). Having to meet the requirements of a test suite does not suddenly render this invalid.

    The Android Market is also qualitatively more open as you suggest.

  • Jim Philips

    I think all of the points you make are valid. But we have to remember where we came from. before Android, practically nobody could conceive of a cell phone OS that was open for you to view and hack as freely as the OS on your UNIX desktop. And moving files on to and off of the phone is as simple as as it to move file on to and off of a USB drive. As little as a year ago, that situation was practically unimaginable (except on the G1). Compare all of this to the closed world of iPhone OS and it's like night and day. Also, if somebody can't get their app onto the Android market, I can still install it as long as I know where to download it. I was upset over the way Google handled the CyanogenMod episode a few months back. But in the end, it was resolved in a way that allowed all of us to keep doing what we liked. Android may not be fully open like Linux. But it is dramatically more open than any other major cell phone OS. So, evil is all relative. I'll take Android over the Republic of Steve any day.

  • I sense that you are trying to make issue of the difficulties the phone makers face, ie. it's hard to do business, coz it costs money. However, twisting that to make Google sound evil, that's just propaganda.

    Then again, my sense has been known to be quite wrong. 🙂

    Google might be "evil", they might have an agenda for the OS *they* have built, invested money in, but does that make *Android* evil?

    Considering it is Apache licensed, anyone can fork it, and do whatever they want with it (it might be hard, and expensive to do, but free nonetheless). To claim that it is on par with the lack of freedom that exist on Iphone OS, and other platforms is not only ludicrous, but also comes across as the author having an agenda, and subverting facts to make a point.

    I fail to see how this is different from how linux kernel source is managed. In fact, in some ways it's a bit more open that even that. Try using a different kernel with a linux distribution, and let me know how that goes.

  • Sean Caldwell

    not open? On my phone I have an option that says let me install software from outside of the market. People can install stuff that has not gone through any approval process if they wish.

    Love my HTC hero on sprint. Can't wait for Android 4g to roll out.

  • This article seems only to really consider the phone manufacture side of the story.

    On the application development side the google android is much more open than apple although not perfect.

    Long term google does need to open up the code review process and be more public about the new / upcoming enhancements to the SDK


  • Kevin Baker

    Andreas, sorry but Android is open. You can download the source, compile it, modify it. Create your own hardware and use it. You can install apps from a 'rival' markerplace, install a different browser from the bundled one, I mean, what else do you need?

    This article smacks of a hidden agenda. However, Apple fanboys used to irritate me, but now I just laugh at them 🙂 Steve Jobs seems to be an example of how *not* to run a business. Since Tony Fadel has left the company, he has become a liability. The *only* thing currently in Apple's favor is the developers contributing to the app store, and he is surely doing a great job of pissing them off with the ridiculous closed system Apple operates.

  • Nathan H.

    You know what, YOU ARE EVIL. You make money!

    From your article, anyone who tries to make some profit out of their work is evil.

    Yet still, Android pushed the mobile world a lot further.

    Also, some Chinese manufacturers are making Android phones without any participation from Google. They replaced the app store, the search engine, the apps, etc …

    Several android phones in the US are being shipped with YAHOO as the default search engine and main apps.

    Hey you know what, why don't you start your own mobile operating system?

  • Did you know http://www.geeksphone.com ?

    Is the opposite of your arguments.

    They work with ROM builders and distribute their work in commercial handsets, with "root" access.

  • Nice article indeed. I love Android, yet I am also the webmaster of the Archos Fans community. Archos is basically so far still the only Android Tablet manufacturer in the world (although 50+ Android Tablets have been shown at trade shows, nearly none of those are yet available on the market). Thus Archos, this little French company with less than 100 engineers, has had an Android device on the market since September 2009 and yet NO legal official way for them to pre-install the Google Marketplace, Gmail, Gtalk on their devices. There are illegal ways to install Google Apps on the Archos tablets, even a very simple .apk to transfer to the tablet over USB that does all the necessary Google Apps installations pretty easily.

    Though this whole unofficial Google Apps deal is absolutely not sustainable, it's like some kind of cyanogen thing. The mass market consumers that buy ipod touch and ipads would NEVER accept to have to go through such unofficial channels to get some sort of "Google Experience" on their device.

    Though, as the roadmap of Android is top secret, as Google geniuses prepare their Knock Out blows against Apple/Microsoft/Nokia/Intel, I think we as Android fanboys can also rather straight forwardly guess what that roadmap likely is going to be.

    I see it a bit like some kind of trojan horse approach. Deep down I am sure Google does not want to do evil, but to reach the goal of providing sub-$100 Android devices that do all the VOIP, VOD, Credit Card and ID replacement, RFID, Augmented Reality, GPS, Social Networking and all that other stuff, Google first simply has got to play it nice with the largest Manufacturers and the largest telecom carriers.

    I was at the Mobile World Congress recently at the Q&A with Eric Schmidt, you could hear really fun questions being asked by provocative telecom industry people, such as Google wanting to "Steal the telecom industry's voice minutes", that Google wants to "Transform the telecom industry into dumb pipes". Those transformations are real, and I am sure the Google top strategists are aiming to reach those goals as soon as possible. But Google alone, even though they have the most and best PHDs cannot make the $100 unlocked Google Phone/Tablet/e-reader/set-top-box happen. So they have to work in certain levels of secrecy with the right big companies that need to have their investments recouped before Google opening up the next level of Android openness to the whole industry.

  • Janey

    "nd btw lets not forget that some OSS is in the core of what Apple use as well"

    This is important for people to remember when they go off spouting about how Mac OS X is less secure because Apple released more security updates than Microsoft did last year. Apple has to push out updates for the oodles of OSS software that is included with Mac OS X. Heck, you oughta see how many updates I see on my Ubuntu boxes.

    And Shiva – Google didn't build Android. Google bought Android. They're acting like Cisco sometimes – instead of innovation, they just whip out the checkbook and plop themselves into another market.

  • Jeremiah

    You do know that the SDK has nothing to do with the actual source code, right? You can build a completely working system without the proprietary bits.

    By the way, Cyanogen Mod is 100% open source code. His mid simply includes the ability to backup and restore the proprietary applications if the user chooses to use them.

  • Wayne

    The problem with google is that they basically copied all of iPhone to make android. Not a single ounce of innovation exists in the android phone, just copy copy copy in a desperate attempt to destroy Apple. Luckily, Apple has far better programmers than google so they are able to make better product without any linux code corrupting everything. So yeah, Android is evil because Google is evil. 'nuff said.

  • T. Berry

    "The problem with google is that they basically copied all of iPhone to make Android"

    I grow tired of hearing this as the unsubstantial main counter-point by most if not all Apple fanboys. This is obviously the best (according to your standards) line of defence you can muster up when backed into the corner …did you not read earlier that google bought Android? And what of Apple's innovation besides its patents of IPs. They didn't create the first smartphone (if the iphone can be categorized as such) nor the touchscreen.

    The nerve of these people and their trivial superficialities. Apple succeeded in 2 things: vanity (design if u will) and bamboozlement, hence 3 different fragmented generations of hardware that you have been conned in to paying for with the belief that its better than the last. The g1 with lesser specs was able to do what the first two iterations of the opposition couldnt; MMS, video capture, true multitasking, damn near full customization, etc. without shelling out extra cash for hardware upgrade hassles. The g1 is able to, for lack of a better word, imitate the image of any other android phone and its exclusive features with a simple root and flash.

    Android is the manifestation of what Apple is not in terms of user's definition of "open." You don't have to use the stock apps or UI, the market, the OTA upgrades or anything google if you so choose. Don't need a proprietary program (iTunes) to get thr phone up and running because the [Android handset] is ready to go out-the-box. I can download unsupported files, change my battery and SD cards for more memory and can even flash custom ROMs or official updates before the handset notices their available for download Can the same be said about Apple? Can the iphone 2g run features found on the 3GS? Several android phones currently run Flash. Do you recall that being a capability of your precious device.

    I don't think so. So spare me the iPhone-wannabe crap. U have and iPod that's screaming to be a phone while I have a first generation Android handset that rivals your favorite laptop. Big differnce if you ask me

    And tell me why jailbreaking sounds like an illegal gesture that could follow with more serious sentencing…granted it not as crucial as I make it to sound but if your in jail in the first place then you've obviously committed somethin to warrant such consequences.

    Food for thought? Yes. I'm gonna leave that "open" for the imagination.

  • Shred


    Symbian was way ahead of the iPhone when it was first released. iPhone was inferior to most high end symbian products when launched except for maybe the browsing experience to an extent. It is the closed US cellular market and apple fanaticism that fueled the iPhone sales. It is the US that should thank apple for pulling it from the dark ages .

    I suppose you misinterpret the meaning of open. Open doesn't mean you open all doors for people to put in their code into the Google release. I believe you don't understand what it is to maintain millions of lines of code.

    Open source software also needs to be controlled and Google is doing a great job with it.

  • The market will decide.

  • Hesham

    About the Android Market Part .. it doesn't have to have the android market program at your program . the vodafone operator didn't install it on some of its devices on some countries like Egypt and India for instance !

  • Chaps, the upgradeability of _consumer_ Android phones and thus to a large extend, their "openness" for the rest of us needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, as they say.

    <a href="http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Android+Market/thread?tid=04c1963243ea6e41&hl=en&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Android+Mar…” target=”_blank”>;http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Android+Mar

    <a href="http://www.cyanogenmod.com/about&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://www.cyanogenmod.com/about” target=”_blank”>;http://www.cyanogenmod.com/about

    <a href="http://developer.htc.com/google-io-device.html&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://developer.htc.com/google-io-device.html” target=”_blank”>;http://developer.htc.com/google-io-device.html

    Manufacturers due to their product life-cycle plans, internal organisational structure and expense of supporting older devices will by the nature of the beast make it hard to hack and upgrade your old phone (even when they don't want to be mean), whether it runs an open stack or not. At the end of the day these are appliances…

    On the other hand operators if they could, they would have us all using a single phone, because new phones on their network cost money for them. But of course they don't wish us to hack them either.

    From a bird-eye view the "openness" situation with Android, currently appears much better than Symbian OS ever had it. Still the plethora and fragmentation in terms of devices between the two systems makes any comparison of limited value for now.

    Having said that, the platform that people argue is the most closed, i.e the iPhone is the most friendly to the end-user in terms of return on investment, since an old device can get new life through new upgrades. Which when you fork so much money is very important.

    Isn't this weird?

    Perhaps not if you look at the economics of each camp's business model.

    At the end of the day, Symbian OS, Android, LiMo and the iPhone OS are all based on OSS. Does it matter though for their openness and hackability?

    The answer is no. It is whoever manufacturer wants to play open that makes the difference. This "openness" game can be played in many fields.

    So when we talk about "openness" we need to specify if we are referring to "openness" for developers, "openness" to system upgrades, access to code, access to apps, etc. etc. etc.

    "Openness" is a multifaceted subject, which may or may not be relevant depending on who and how you look at it.

    Chose your poison 🙂

  • Pat

    You obviously don't understand what open means.

    Your conclusion that Android is no more open that Windows mobile or OSX are risible…at best.

  • Answerguy

    "Android owes much of its success to one of its arch-rivals, Apple"

    This observation/comment is absolutely ridiculous.

    Its the "Google" factor that Android critics don't like much. In fact if you read carefully this article you'll realize that quickly.

  • hawth

    This is silly.

    1. Private branches

    This is sightly unfortunate, but not a big deal. Android itself seems to hit the AOSP repos a week or two after shipping. Google is a for profit company, under no legal obligation to provide you with the source, they do in a reasonable time, good for them. Source being out while in development would also kill the marketing excitement before a handset's release, with what advantage to me, the consumer/hacker? A partially working unusable system that whatever i code against will change within the next week? No thanks.

    2. Closed review process

    "Android" is a google product (well, technically Open Handset Alliance, but we're really discussing the google released version). This is how things work. Don't like it? Fork it. You're allowed to. That's how open source works. Look up gcc's history.

    3. Speed of evolution.

    Bastards! Less innovation and improvements plzkthx!

    4. Incomplete software.

    Three issues

    4.1 Market, Gmail and GTalk

    Unfortunate. These aren't android. Next! There exist open source equivalents that will run on your phone.

    4.2 Drivers, etc, etc

    Unfortunate. Bug HTC about it. This also isn't really part of android. Part of that whole "open" thing is that anyone can build off it. HTC did, this isn't a flaw.

    4.3 Cyanogen.

    Cyanogenmod doesn't distribute any google apps. It copies them from the previous installation. This is clever, and google has no problem with it. The google apps are the same as any other android app. Think about that for a minute. That is open at its finest.

    5. Gated developer community.

    You can install .apks from any source. There exist other markets for them. As you said, google is pretty lenient about what's allowed, and afaik most of the decision making around this is done by the carrier.

    6. Anti-fragmentation agreement.

    I fail to see how this relates to the openness

    7. Private roadmap

    Thought about marketing? Also, how does this help you in any way?

    8. Android trademark.

    Better also stop using Linux(tm), Ubuntu(tm), Firefox(tm), etc.

    In short, most of the problems (which do exist) are BECAUSE android is open. If you have the time and motivation, follow the golden rule of open source:

    fork it.

    Working out well for my beloved cyanogenmod.

  • Unbelievable

    While I agree that open and accessible is a noble idea and the preferred method of approach to many things tech, it never-the-less still remains the playground of the elite of tech heads. It is easy to sit back and berate apple and jobs for their/ his tyranny (of which a fair amount of distrust of is certainly healthy. Tyranny of any sort should always be distrusted) it is us as a technoraty that have driven the average consumer to the apple model. Gripe all you want about how open apple is not, we have only ourselves to blame.

    Face it, the average user (read:98% of the world's population) knows NOTHING about how to integrate technology into daily life. Indeed, it is difficult for some of us to do it in our own lives. What's more, the time necessary to figure it out on rudimentary level is something the average user cant afford because of the rest of life.

    But along comes jobs and company and forces tech industries to take a hard look at their luddite-like practices of not rocking the boat and not doing a better job of getting the vast tech capabilities of the world easier to access for all. Whine all you want, but we are talking about this stuff only because of apple's actions. They have done more to get the ball rolling than anyone else, bar none.

    Could things have been done differently and with more thought given to the other visionaries that are in the field? Possibly. But apple nad google are both BUSINESSES. They exist to make money from what they are good at. There will always be self centered decisions made, I don't care who you are. And I think that is the point of this article. Google may mantra "don't be evil" but at the end of the day, if they don't exist because they failed to take into considerations the actions of other companies that didn't share the same ideals, then what's the point?

    When all is said and done, I cant help but wonder if apple and google share similar approaches and goals for tech. Google is able to keep the dream of "open" tech alive and well in the mainstream mindshare. Apple, I believe, with jobs' wisdom from experience, implements and makes easy to use bulletproof, high quality tech for all. Why does anyone do that when money can be made from mediocrity so easily? Because they have a passion for a better world that can stay technically literate and current. But to espouse either approach exclusively is an exercise in futility and ignores the reality that both are flawed and that both, at this time in history, are necessary, individual evil as notwithstanding.

  • Answerguy


    "Android owes much of its success to one of its arch-rivals, Apple"


    "iPhone owes its success to Nokia."

  • This single link <a href="http://(http://www.cyanogenmod.com/about)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.cyanogenmod.com/about) completely devastates your weak [ed: removed] hypothesis.

    The source is available. The license allows modification and re-distribution. And clearly there *are* people successfully "forking" the project to create their own custom distributions. If Android isn't open, then neither is Linux, Apache, or ANYTHING.

  • Article looks like big piece of just unproven rant. None of your 8 points really contains any LINK of fact. No reference at all.

    "Ask anyone who’s tried to contribute a patch to Android and you hear the same story: very few contributions get in and often no reason is offered on rejection."

    Man, Just add few likes to prove your worth, Else article is as useless as M$ myths about FF. Just base less.

    Don't trust Google. Just like any other commercial corporations. But still their efforts on open source are significant. And about their CTS, Yes i agree, should be made open in such a way that everyone can use it. Some B grade Made in China mobiles can use it. Yes. They need to b clear as how quickly you can create your own HS with Android. But your 8 points, not convincing.

  • Jose G.

    Andreas Constantinou,

    This has to be the worst article I've ever read! Have you ever read the EULA agreement on any Microsoft or Apple OS? You cannot access it, modify, reverse engineer, re-assemble it, or distribute it. How can you even say Google is more closed, when the other guys don't even give you a door to look at their OS? Did you even pay attention to the Psystar vs Apple case? Just go to Psystar's website. You will find no computers or any product to sell. Apple sued them into oblivion for even thinking about messing with their precious intellectual property.

    The fact of the matter is that this Utopian idea of FLOSS or completely open source just isn't practical. The rubber doesn't meet the road. You have to make some sacrifices to be successful. If you want Google to win, it has to be monetized. That's the world we live in & even in future economies, this will be true then.

    Google is doing the best they can in this world to make open source work. Is it completely open? No. But it doesn't have to be. It simply has to work in a way that makes people think & use open source software differently. Instead of just running to Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Oracle, & other closed developers, you can look at Google as the only truly successful model of Open Source that has true mass market appeal.

    Don't ruin a great thing with your biased, illogical, & silly arguments. Nothing is going to be exactly as you personally want them. So you have to write a bogus article to ruin the Google experience for everyone else? Just because you want to see all the secret sauce? I think that's morally wrong. If Google makes open source succeed where others have fail, they deserve to show something for it & make a few dollars. If a good thing is happening, nobody's being hurt, & it's changing the world in a positive way; why do humans have to tear it down? Until we see some real harm or concern, I think you need to fall-back on this. To quote Paul McCartney, "Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be."

  • John J Penn

    This guy is clearly a troll or a rather, a n00b. I haven't called anyone that in a long time.

  • I share many of the considerations made in the comments about the underestimation of Android openness, partially made in the post (Cyanogen stands to demonstrate).

    Anyway, I feel that the point should be more if the policies that Google is adopting are somehow functional to Android as a technology and a product or not.
    I think they are.

    Furthermore, the approach that Google were going to use with Android project is quite clear from the start (an old but related post: http://meedabyte.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/democra

    Thank Andreas for triggering the discussion.

  • TK

    Anybody who doesn't think Android copied (stole) Apple's iPhone concept have a look at the initial Android phone coming out to compete with the iPhone 3G as well as the lame efforts from Nokia, etc.. There's a reason there were no worries about network constraint until the iPhone came along.


  • Hi all,

    I ‘ll try to respond to the many comments in the forum.

    The response to the article has been both phenomenal and polarised. In just 48 hours from posting the article got 12,000 views, 550+ tweets, 100+ new twitter followers and 38 comments (of 10+ were flamed). The article rating rised to +8 before dropping to -4, hinting at the bipolar views of the commenter audience. I was also called ‘moron’ or ‘n00b’ and other expletives which however don’t help prove any argument.

    The comments also made me realise that Android, iPhone et al are – besides software platforms – becoming religions. The debate even spilled over to Apple vs Google issues.

    I can summarise my response by quoting @Peter Blakeley’s comment: “This article seems only to really consider the phone manufacture side of the story”. Or like @JohnPagonis who said that “openness is a multifaceted subject”.

    Open to who

    I should have clarified that there are two types of 'open', corresponding to the two types of ecosystems in mobile: the pre-load and the post-load ecosystem.

    – The pre-load ecosystem (aka 2nd parties) is made up of handset manufacturers, operators/carriers and their 350-400 trusted software suppliers and integrators. These are the guys shipping, marketing and supporting phones.

    – The post-load ecosystem (aka 3rd parties) is made up of software developers who can download the source code, SDK or get a developer-edition phone without signing any NDAs (and usually) not paying any access fees.

    The point of ‘loading’ is the point where the handset image gets flashed onto the ROM and indeed a strategic timepoint as the ecosystems participants and dynamics of the two ecosystems are worlds apart (in physics terms it would be called a singularity). We ‘ve written about this extensively in this (free) research report published in 2007.

    The Android pre-load ecosystem is closed (as per my 8 control points), while the post-load ecosystem (the 3rd party developers) is totally open – and indeed more open than any other operating system in the history of the mobile industry (like @Jose G points out, most other mobile operating systems or SDKs require signing an EULA that forbids developers from modifying or distributing the source code).

    Both pre-load an post-load ecosystems are vital to the success of a platform; in the classic software platform feedback loop, a good platform spawns more apps, which create more platform sales, which spawn more apps. In the case of the mobile industry, the platform is critically dependent on the OEM. In other words, it’s the handset OEMs who decide which platform their handsets will be based on.

    As such, Android needs support from both OEMs (and their MNO customers) *and* software developers.

    However, whereas Android is completely open for the software developer ecosystem, it’s completely closed for the OEM (pre-load) ecosystem. There is no other platform which is so asymmetrical in terms of its governance structures.

    I mentioned how comments were very bi-polar. People working in the pre-load ecosystem agreed with the article, whereas people in the post-load ecosystem violently disagreed.

    Forking Android and the hacker ecosystem

    Now, besides these two ecosystems (pre-load and post-load), there is a hybrid – and much smaller – one in the middle. The ecosystem made of developers/hackers/tinkerers – people like the Cyanogen or Geeksphone who build custom ROMs and hack their own handsets.

    This hacker ecosystem creates Android-based products, which might appeal to the geek market. However, they are not commercially viable for the consumer mass-market and they never will be, simply because – all things being equal – the resources required to support an Android fork are very taxing (e.g. Cyanogen is still on 1.6). Consider how Nokia’s head of open source efforts Ari Jaaksi publicly admitted that “Nokia should not have forked WebKit” due to the effort required to maintain the fork. And not everyone has Nokia’s (or in the case of Android – China Mobile’s) resources.

    This is precisely why – although you can fork Android (as noted by @Irha @pveera, @shiva and others_ – forking is of little benefit to an OEM.

    By the way, Android is the first mobile operating system that gives you a top-end commercial grade handset (a Nexus One, or a HTC Google I/O handset) on which you can run custom ROMs. The only OS that came any close was OpenMoko but which eventually vanished due to lack of monetisation potential for its parent manufacturer (FIC).

    Yes, you can install a custom ROM on the Nexus One with a bit of hackery. But that should invalidate your warranty. More importantly, Google will think twice before opening up root access to the device, once the first lawsuits start arriving claiming health risks from exploding batteries or messed up radio stacks. Also, has the FCC noticed? FCC is against upgrades to devices that might case the device radio behaviour to change. As a result HTC will only allow you to flash their developer edition phone (ADP) or the Google I/O phone.

    The 8 control points redux

    I ‘ll respond to several commentators which argued against the 8 control points:

    #1 Private branches.

    In response to @Shiva: the difference between Android and Linux distros kernel is that the nightlies are publically accessible with major Linux distros, e.g. Ubuntu. Not the case with Android.

    In response to @hawth who said “Android itself seems to hit the AOSP repos a week or two after shipping”: Imagine you ‘re an OEM wanting to ship a market-leading Android handset. If you ‘re not in the ‘club’, you don’t have access to the private branches. If you wait to start development once the latest Android version appears on AOSP repos, you ‘ve lost your competitive advantage. But – if you have access to the latest nightlies (e.g. see Ubuntu), then you have a choice of where to branch off, and you can invest in contributing straight to the root. From an open source econometrics perspective, the time distance between the nightlies and the code release is proportional to the cost of external innovation on this platform (and probably Nokia has some data points on that, too).

    #2. Closed review process.

    @hawth said “Don’t like it? Fork it.”. The freedom to contribute is implied if you combine the ‘modify’ and ‘distribute’ freedoms of FLOSS. See how Symbian, Maemo, Ubuntu, Eclipse, etc allow direct upstream contribution and how external contributors have climbed up the reviewer/maintainer ladder purely on meritocracy rather than membership fees or NDAs.

    #3. Speed of evolution.

    In response to @Stephane and @hawth: the speed of Android innovation surely is welcome by end users and Google, but puts those OEMs in a tough position. Consider SEMC (Sony Ericsson) whose handsets are on 1.6 while Nexus shipped earlier on 2.1. In the case of SEMC, its decision to invest heavily in Android with its own resources means that its in-house Android version will quickly become outdated from Google’s version and fall behind handsets from OEMs closely following Google (e.g. HTC) .SEMC in this case is co-opeting with Google since by investing in-house it risks losing its competitive advantage.

    #5. Gated developer community.

    In response to @pveera who said “[you can] maintain your own app store”. If you do have your own app store, how many apps can you feature? Maybe a few 100s if you go to each app developer and get permission to distribute their .apks plus provide a payment gateway, revenue share agreements in place, etc. This is hard work when you can just take the Android Market which comes with nearly 40,000 apps out of the box.

    If you are a carrier or OEM selling millions of handsets in English-speaking markets, you don’t have an option NOT to include Market.

    Notice the caveat on “English-speaking”. AFAIK, Android Market is very poor when it comes to a diversity of localised apps for countries where English is <a href="http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=how+many+people+speak+English&quot; rel="nofollow">not the primary language (i.e. most of the world). This means that operators/carriers don’t care about Market in such countries – and like @Hesham says are opting out of Market like Vodafone has done in Egypt and India.

    Quoting a comment from @Charbax: “There are illegal ways to install Google Apps on the Archos tablets, even a very simple .apk to transfer to the tablet over USB that does all the necessary Google Apps installations pretty easily. Though this whole unofficial Google Apps deal is absolutely not sustainable, it’s like some kind of cyanogen thing. The mass market consumers that buy ipod touch and ipads would NEVER accept to have to go through such unofficial channels to get some sort of “Google Experience” on their device.”

    #6. Anti-fragmentation agreement.

    In response to @hawth: The anti-fragmentation agreement restricts what you can do as an OEM with the Android source code if you ‘re shipping a commercial handset (where’s the ‘open’ in that?).

    #7. Private roadmap.

    Again in response to @hawth. Roadmap visibility is essential for OEM product management. How can you plan your handset roadmap, and your own software development pipeline if your OS supplier is cryptic about which features they are building in? As a developer, how do you innovate on top of the OS when you don’t know when your innovaton will become a defacto (and free) part of the OS?

    #8. Android trademark.

    In response to @hawth. Trademarks are there to limit the field of use. AFAIK, Linus has never leveraged on his trademark again OEMs claiming their device runs Linux. The best case in point is Java; you need Sun’s approval to ship a handset that comes the Java naming or cup & steam logo, which in turn requires TCK certification (TCK is not dissimilar albeit more forgiving than CTS).

    Misc responses

    @Guilhem: low cost Android will only work with Google’s blessing – and the thorny issue right now is that going mass market (incl. losing touchscreen) will cause a compatibility break which Google wants to avoid at all costs. The response from @Charbax is very insightful in terms of how closed Android appears to STB manufacturers who are not in the ‘Google club’ (and why Google <a href="http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2010/03/android-set-top-box-may-be-coming-to-a-living-room-near-you.ars"created another 'club'</a rel="nofollow"> for STB products rather than trusting every STB manufacturer out there to innovate)

    About ”Google is no more open – and no less closed – than Windows Mobile, Apple OSX or PalmOS”

    I stand corrected, this should have said ”From the handset manufacturer perspective, Google is no more open – and no less closed – than licensable operating systems like Windows Mobile, Symbian and BREW”

    For example, with WinMo and Symbian as an OEM (and in some cases as an operator/carrier) you have access to source code, which you can modify/update with few restrictions (a few binary-only components in WinMo and some ‘mandatory/non-replaceable’ components in Symbian in the pre-SyFo days). HTC for example have launched handsets with their SenseUI layer on top of WinMo, BREW and Android. This is the same level of openness afforded to OEMs by Android. No more, no less.

    @Shred said “Open source software also needs to be controlled”. Absolutely. And the most successful open source projects are those which are commercial sponsored, simply because commercial sponsors care about pushing the OSS project into a product, or push the 80%-ready code into a 100% finished product, adding support and marketing. Like @ JoseG. says, “the Utopian idea of FLOSS or completely open source just isn’t practical”. I argued that Google is a model for how you can run a tightly controlled product while leaving it under an open source license. To paraphrase @Unbelievable, Android is not evil, it’s a necessary evil. What I ‘m arguing against is the abuse of the ‘open’ moniker when Android is anything but ‘open’ to modification by handset manufacturers. I hope this also answers @Nathan's point about how 'profiting is not evil' (which I support entirely).

    I have also replied personally to the eponymous commentators (i.e. those that left their name, email and URL). Comments will be closing end of day on Monday 19.

    – Andreas

  • Aissen


    Thanks for the clarifications in your latest comment, and for the great article.

    Just to nitpick on SEMC, they did go all-in with Android, since they're still maintaining 3 platforms (WinMo, Symbian, Android) in their product line. I'm sure they could have access to those "private branches", but Google is making it hard for the slow-to-market handset makers with their innovation pace.

    I hope you won't be closing the comments now, and give one more week for people to discuss your arguments (we all have work to do, but at least let the thing cool down a little before closing).

  • David Almstrom

    I actually agree with most of Andreas' comments but I would say it is even worse for a lot of the OEMs, even if they belong to the OEM club of Google.

    Example: Nexus One sold as a Google phone (2.1), done by HTC, took everyone else totally off-guard. I do not think Motorola was too pleased just launching their Android 2.0 phones or SEMC with their 1.6 (made by HTC).

    A lot of vendors in the STB, TV and other CE industries are also betting on Google, believing that someday soon, Google will allow them to have the CTS and insert Google services and use Android trademark.

    In my view, I do not think Google will do so. Maintaining and supporting the phone profile with a team of (as I understand) less than 100 engineers will probably keep them busy for the next couple of years. Android success still is to be proven in the market (though, they have a very good chance to succeed).

    What has contributed to the success is the fact of being seen as Open Source and that mfrs can actually take the open source version and put it on a devboard and make it run. But that's not the first time this has happened. Trolltech's Qtopia was in a similar state (GPL not Apache) and many mfrs/chipsets used Qtopia to show off their capabilities. But to make a device/phone from that proved far more difficult. So does Android.

    The other reason for the success is that there is simply not many other options:

    -Symbian.. njae, well, it is a bit harder

    -MeeGo.. well, only if you wanna make a Netbook. it may change later

    -Angstrom, Ubuntu, etc.. well, you have to build your whole device/UI/app model from scratch.

  • The Telco industry is one of the biggest in the world, it might be number 2 right after Oil. This is big business. Those are big investments.

    I don't know how much the early Android releasing giants have invested in Android product and software development thus far, but here are some quick Google Finance search results:

    HTC Corporation worth: $309 Billion (more than Google!)

    Motorola: $16.9 Billion

    Samsung: Privately owned, could be worth more than $500 Billion

    It could be said that those giant corporations have invested in Android quite heavily and may be considering Android to be at the basis of their whole financial recovery strategy.

    Without those guys, Google would have had to make totally open-source devices with Chinese, Taiwanese or French manufacturers mostly, which would make it also harder to have all the big Telecom carriers of the world embrace the Android devices.

    When you look at it from a Telecom industry's perspective, all of Google activities, especially all the things they do around Android, Google Voice, all those may seem like threats more than opportunities. Google has to navigate through that to convince major OEMs, then major carriers to support this OS for it to really take off as quickly as possible.

    In my opinion, the coming of the 50+ Android tablets which you can see videos of all over the Internet, which have been shown at tradeshows all over the world this past year, I think for sure the commercial release of those in those next few months will require from Google to open up the next phase of openness for Android, but they have to time things right to not offend HTC, Motorola, Samsung and the carriers. They also have to play the VOIP/Google Voice cards right.

  • Andreas – I have previously (more than once) called you the smartest guy in mobile computing, and I continue to stand by that statement with this article. I have learned an enormous amount about the mobile industry by reading your blog for the past four years, much more than I learned in three years in the trenches working at a major mobile software manufacturer. This is a very complex subject and I think you are better equipped than most to see the details—and, further, to explain them to the rest of us. I just got back from the Embedded Linux Conference and Linux Collaboration Summit and many open-source gurus share the concerns you outlined.

    That being said, I wonder if there is a big-picture issue that is being missed in the discussion. I'll use your title to make a devils-advocate assertion:

    Although open is defined as not evil,

    Not being completely open is not necessarily evil

    I noticed this attitude at the conferences as well, Openness is a spectrum, and not all parts of a given product have to be open in order for it to be beneficial to an industry as a whole. It depends on the industry, and it also depends on the beneficiary. Private branches, private roadmaps, and even a gated developer community are not "evil" if the end result is a net gain for the majority of participants. Which I think is what they mean.

    Apple turned the US cellular market on its ear when the iPhone came out, and rightly so – it was long overdue for a revolution. But it did so out of narcissism, to benefit Apple. Google is taking the whole issue one step further by opening the model up at various points, to the benefit of consumers, app developers, and handset manufacturers. This is to the possible detriment of carriers as they are now, but it hastens their eventual evolution into dumb pipes (which IMO they should have been all along).

    Is it ALL to the benefit of everyone? No. Does it have to be in order to not be "evil"? In my opinion, no. And I'm saying that as a serious open-source advocate. It's not so much a begrudging acceptance of Google's need to monetize as a realistic assessment of the situation.

    Actually, AFAIK the Goog never claimed to be always "open". They do claim to avoid evil, and I think Android is disrupting the mobile industry in ways that will prove to be massively beneficial worldwide. The relative openness of various components of the system is not as important as the disruptiveness of the whole. As an aside, I personally hope that they work out their issues with the Linux kernel maintainers, but even if they don't they still will have helped change an entire industry for the benefit of both app developers and consumers, and that is a very non-evil thing to do.

  • Michael

    "Apple turned the US cellular market on its ear when the iPhone came out, and rightly so – it was long overdue for a revolution. But it did so out of narcissism, to benefit Apple. "

    And Google is doing Android purely out of the goodness of its little heart???

    No. Google is doing Android so that Google has a place in the mobile market, and so users are tied to their email systems, browsers, and — most importantly — ad systems. Google wants to collect user data and use it to sell targeted advertising.

    Google is a business, and as such Google is doing it to benefit Google.

  • Steph


    Thanks for this interesting analysis that no doubt provides valuable insight on one side of the Android (pre-launch) world which indeed sounds obscure (didn't say dark 🙂 to people focusing on the other end.

    At the end of the day, one's should remember that Google is a web company and I believe Android is fantastic enabler for generalizing access to online services to the masses.

    I believe that I-phone has educated people to this and that Android is providing the kind of ultimate implementation for that model. License-free Mobile HLOS and ownership capability for pre-launch and open-market applications for post-launch.

    Pre-launch actors still need to follow the crazy pace from Android software releases … I guess this is an interesting and perpetual challenge at OEM side, probably until the platform reached sufficient maturity.

    I am now curious to see how this will branch out once this mature step is reached : One Android for all or one Android flavour by OEM / MNO?

    Bottom line, all these "smart phones' devices from low-end to high end will provide access to Google services

  • I'm not going to comment on the details of the article, in my opinion Android is very open, and that point has been made already in the comments.

    I just thought I'd share this post from the official Google blog about "The meaning of open" from their point of view. Nice post, in my opinion.

    <a href="http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/meaning-of-open.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/MKuf+(Official+Google+Blog)&quot; rel="nofollow"&gt <a href="http://;http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/meaning-of…” target=”_blank”>;http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/meaning-of

  • @Charbax

    I think your market cap figures for major mobile OEMs are way off scale …

    For HTC, for instance, you are mixing up Taiwanese dollars and USD, duh.

    Putting things in context, USD figures are:

    Apple = 224.34B USD

    Google = 175B USD

    Samsung = 108B USD (122.7T KRW – and yes they are listed on the Seoul stock exchange)

    Nokia = 55.95B USD (NYSE)

    Ericsson = 35B (NASDAQ)

    Motorola = 16.92B USD (NYSE)

    LG = 15B USD (17.8T KRW on Seoul stock exchange)

    HTC = 9.8BUSD (309B TWD 🙂

    HTC are actually the smallest of the panel, still this is big money …

    RIM = 40B USD

  • Andreas

    This is a seminal article.

    Google is vertically integrated to a degree that Apple, Microsoft and others have never been with Android (and Chrome) acting to propagate their apps, ads, advertisers, search engine, browser, commerce etc.

    The Android control points are just one lever that Google has in its System to control advertising inventory across multiple platforms.

  • @Michael

    > Google is a business, and as such Google is doing it to benefit Google.

    This is definitely true, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

    However, disrupting a market in such a way that a large number of people benefit is very different from disrupting solely for profit. The question on the table is relative evilness. I propose that narcissism alone is more evil than making choices that benefit others.

  • Debashish Paul

    Hmm, interesting. I guess, everyone is in business here and IMHO, no one is to blame. Software when shared can be a socially powerful tool, but we also have to think that we all love our IP and we have to find ways to monetize it. Open source is excellent, but not at the cost of closing potential revenue streams.

  • Chetan

    "…Apple. As strange as it might seem, Android owes much of its success to one of its arch-rivals."

    Then Apple is stupidest company on planet earth.

    Apple ups the ante against Android with iPhone OS version 4 — but first they have to answer to the 3.3.1 worm.

  • Chetan

    WoW! Andreas Constantinou reply to people's comments is bigger than the article "Is Android Evil" …

    This is enough proof that Andreas Constantinou (don't) know what he is writing about. Only challenge Andreas Constantinou facing is expressing his thoughts or the article is sponsored by Google's competitors take a look, The title of his article itself is "suggestive".

  • Chetan

    Andreas Constantinou as a "human being" readers (commentators) read what they "want" to read and now what you wrote. Same is the case with "Andreas Constantinou" himself he read what he wanted to read.

    Andreas Constantinou read between the lines and most importantly help yourself.

  • bradi

    Regarding comments that keep citing Apple and (basically) using "closed" and "bad" as synonyms…. you are off base. Apple didn't set out to make an open phone, not for the user, and not for the network providers. They set out to make a product that works, that makes power features usable, and limits the control of service providers (this is my own US centric perspective). You see their desire to control their product as evil, I say it is responsible. I build this and I strive to make it work right, consistently. As users and interested parties have described useful features they want, Apple has made nearly every one available – as long as Apple was still able to fulfill their core goals: "work right, consistently"……

    Regarding the principles of the article, Andreas makes an excellent case. Google is open (very much so) in one way, but not at all, in another.

    My point balanced upon these two principles: So many wish to see this as white hat vs black hat – yet all we really have are shades…..

  • Gurpreet

    I would say, it's intelligent, not evil.

  • it would take a lot of efforts for another company to create a different branch and iterate faster than Google.

  • rob

    I think this article misses a few points here:
    1. There is no "exclusive" app store, in fact, you can download an app from anywhere and install it, and at least Amazon has set up another separate app store.
    2. Most of the rules above apply only if you want them to. i.e. you can have the most support from google, access to pre-release code, etc. Or, if you aren't making such a high-end device, you can simply download Android and load it on your device however you want. Quite a lot of "non-premium" devices do this, including an Android Palm-top I saw last weekend.
    3. Although you can't load google's apps (Gmail, etc.) without their approval, many, many companies have "dared" to release Android without GMS. Users can for the most part always download and install what they want anyway. (Of course Motorola and Sharp go the "official" route, but many generic devices are being released w/o those google specific apps).
    4. For Android, Car navigation systems, LCD picture frames, tablets, etc., aren't really exotic uses at all. It's a light-weight GUI with reasonable feature-completeness and touch-screen support that is available for free. Of course people making devices that could benefit from it will decide to use it.


Distilling market noise into market sense

What gets desktop developers out of bed in the morning?

desktop developer segmentation

Despite all the hype around the death of the PC and the enormous amount of media attention focused on mobile,…

Continue reading ...

A proven model for targeting IoT developers


  What if you could identify a handful of developer personas, or segments, each with a very distinct set of…

Continue reading ...

1000 skills: Amazon Alexa as a metaphor for the IoT developer community


Alexa is a centerpiece of Amazon’s Smart Home push, and quickly growing to become one of the most promising attempts…

Continue reading ...


Research on the app economy and developer ecosystems

Developer Segmentation 2014


The Developer Segmentation Q3 2014 report is the most sophisticated study of developer segments to date. The report delivers a…

Continue reading ...

App Profits and Costs


This research report examines the critical success factors for a profitable app, and how business and technology choices, such as…

Continue reading ...

Developer Segmentation 2013

Developer Segmentation 2013

The Developer Segmentation 2013 report delivers a needs-based segmentation model that actually works, with extensive profiling of the eight principle…

Continue reading ...