Is Android really Open Source?

There’s an ongoing discussion on the internets which lately buzzed a lot. Is Android really Open Source as Google claims or is it really as closed as Apple’s iOS? Depends on which side you are methinks, but there’s a pretty much solid objective side where normal people can discuss and not flame each other.

[Disclaimer: I’m an iPhone and MacBook Air user. I like Apple, I don’t think Apple as a religion. I can still work in Windows + Linux and I admit it openly (read: Twitter) when Apple is bullshitting at us (that is, quite often lately.]

I was actually discussing it in Twitter with @mperedim and @nassod where I was the Apple-side dude, @mperedim was the Android supporter and @nassosd was the pretty much neutral one. We finally decided to go for a beer (a geek’s best solution to everything.)

Straight to the point now. Eric Schmidt basically said

“You have to use their development tools, their platform, their hardware, their software — if you submit an application, they have to approve it — they have to use their monetization and their distribution. This is not Open. The inverse would be Open.”

And then might Jobs answered back,

“The iOS isn’t “closed,” but “integrated,” resulting in a better user experience.”

My guess is that both Schmidt and Jobs are talking about the same thing — from different prospectives. Because they’re the same open: not at all, open.

Yup, you’ve read that one correct. I don’t think that Android is open. Or at least 100% open. But even if it was, let’s say 70% open that’d mean basically the same thing. It isn’t open.

See, the problem is that how does Google get away with the “open” claim when the source isn’t public until major releases, and no one outside Google can check in?

That’s what Joe Hewitt said.

You can compare the Android “open source” model to Firefox or Linux if you want to see how disingenuous that “open” claim is.

That’s also what Jew Hewitt said.

Until Android is read/write open, it’s no different than iOS to me. Open source means sharing control with the community, not show and tell.

Guess what? That one was told by Jew Hewitt.

I totally 100% agree. Google’s and especially Android’s success was only because Android was open to the carriers. Carriers could can do whatever they want — just like HTC guys and the rest.

But hey, that isn’t open, is it? Otherwise Android wouldn’t even exist today. Where’s the public source tree and commiter privileges, huh? You’re right, there are none. Google offers only read/write “open” code (as Joew Hewitt said — gee, that can become a meme if I continue using it that much) instead of a full Open code like Mozilla or Canonical or Red Hat, etc.

Having said that, if you want to see real Open Source from Google you have only to visit Chrome OS. And Chromium/WebKit. Thats where real Open Source work is done and I respect it.

Unfortunately, we’re getting bullshitted by corporate guys when the real Open Source is out there waiting us to contribute to. We’re getting distracted by flaming each other about which is the best OS and why and how much more open is Android than iOS or Ubuntu than Mac OS X.

posted: October 29, 2010
under: Apple, Google, Software

5 Responses

  1. thpoul says:

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

    Taken from

    On a personal note and since I’ve been developing for quite a while on the Android SDK I haven’t found yet anything to be restricted from doing on the platform. The source code is open for everyone to use, something Apple never considered doing. By the way Android’s success was not only due the fact that it is open to carriers but also to everyone who wishes to build something on it’s source.

  2. Apostolos says:

    One can claim whatever he wants about himself and/or his product. It’s the facts that make a valid point, for everyone.

    When building an app where exactly do you need the OS’ source code? I am talking about committing, expanding, developing, building, making to the actual source code, not on apps.

  3. mperedim says:

    If you are to quote Joe Hewitt you should stick to his relevant blog post rather than 140 character chunks omitting important parts of his opinions. Where he openly admits that:

    Unfortunately, the term “open” has so many meanings in computing today, it’s probably futile for anyone to bother criticizing the way it is used as I did yesterday. My emotional response had a lot to do with my background.

    In the interest of not repeating myself Joe’s POV (emphasized) reflects mine. Android’s openness is a watered down version of the one we encounter in vibrant open source projects. Still, there is no doubt that Android is the most open of all major mobile operating systems, and they are to be commended for this.

    If nothing else the existence of alternate legal android community ROMs is a testament to Android’s openness.

    But even if it was, let’s say 70% open that’d mean basically the same thing. It isn’t open.

    “Only a sith or an Apple fanboy deals in absolutes” :-p

  4. Apostolos says:

    @thpoul Meh.

    @mperedim “Android is the most open of all major mobile operating systems, and they are to be commended for this.” It might be 70% open (as I said) but it still ain’t no more open than the others — my personal rant. I like both Google and Apple but this just doesn’t work for me..