When Android launched, it was a praised by developers and users for embracing the open-source community. Built under Linux, Android did for the mobile market what no other company couldВ have done on the desktop. Google made Linux mainstream. From its initial releaseВ in 2008, Android quickly became a household name competing with the likes of Microsoft, RIM and Apple. Its almost enlightening that when thereВ is free market competition, people will choose Linux overВ Windows(Windows Phone Mobile). Android still faces heavy competition from RIM and Apple. The popularityВ of Android and ApplesВ iPhone isВ comparable as these companiesВ jostleВ for the top smartphone market share. As Google and Apple battle for top seed in consumer smartphones, many developers areВ questioningВ if Google has lost its ways with Android. Why has it become increasingly difficult to root Android smartphones? Why did GoogleВ withholdВ releasing the source codes for Honeycomb? Is open source Android dying?
A Digital Arms Race
When Android was released, many developers jumped at the opportunity to work on a new mobile platform that runs on Linux. It also didnt hurt that Google was behind this project. This was during a time where Google seemed to be like King Midas. Everything they touched turned intoВ gold. The growthВ of Android exploded. HTC was in charge of producing theВ first AndroidВ phone, the G1(HTCВ Dream). HTC soon became a leading manufacturer of Android smartphones making the first Google phone(NexusВ One) and the first 4G phone, the Evo 4G. Other manufacturers jumpedВ on Android and the smartphone market blew. The Android Market was catching up to Apples App Store and war was unofficially declared. The fanboys took sides like a good schoolyard battle. In this case, the battle took place on Internet forums, YouTube, and comment boxes. Droids on one side and iDrone on the other. Most people didnt pay attention to the banter. Their eyes were on Google and Apple. Like any good war, the arms race brought innovation toВ the consumers. Suddenly, common folk like you and I could use our phones as GPS, mp3 players, gaming platforms, and even shopping carts. If we wanted to find out the names of songs, we can Shazam it. Things are starting to look bad for Android. At least for one group of users.
It seemed to started with the Motorola Backflip. The Backflip is the first AndroidВ phone available on AT&T and it was highly criticized. At the time, the major smartphone on AT&Ts lineup was the iPhone. Android being a clear competitor to iOS and Apple, prompted AT&T to drop Google as the default search engine and replaced itВ with Yahoo!. Not only that but many features were locked down. Perhaps the writing was on the wall. Many newer AndroidВ phones came with apps that may be considered bloatware on the desktop. These apps are usually bundled by the carrier and there seemed to be no easy way to remove it. Then, users discovered root. Actually, rooting was known for a while now. It only recently became popular.
Rooting For OpenВ Source
Rooting is a familiar term for Linux users. Getting root access is a term that basicallyВ means getting administrative access. On iOS, this is called jailbreaking. Why would you need to get root access? On Linux, you may need root access for a number of reasons. One is installing new programs/apps or using hardware like LED for a flashlight app. This can usually be done by typing sudo apt-get install XYZand then entering your password on a Linux terminal. On Android, you have to click a few buttons and install. The problem arrisesВ when you cant remove certain apps or access certain features. Say you are having trouble removing the Sprint Nascar app. Youve tried going to Add/Remove applications but its not there. You cant remove it. In this case, you need root access. There are lots of ways to root your smartphone. Some require you to install or flash a new ROM while other phones can be rooted with a quick app. Lately, it has become increasingly difficult for users to root their phones. This problem seems common with Motorola phones though I suspect most manufacturers will lock this down just as hard. Carriers can now detect if your phone is rooted. This will become more problematic in the future. Carriers may deny service or warranty if they detect your phone is rooted. The only solution to that is buying the phone out of contract and even that may not be enough.
Given enough time, open source will fragment.
Google has officially entered the tablet market with Android Honeycomb. This version of Android is specificallyВ designed for larger tablet screen. It hasВ been some timeВ since the launch of the first Honeycomb tablet(Motorola Xoom) and Google have yet to released the source codes.В Andy Rubin released a blogВ post in response to the situation. The title links to a wikiВ FUD(Fear, UncertaintyВ andВ Doubt) article attempting to calm everyone and explaining why they havent released the source codes yet. He states, Finally, we continue to be an open source platform and will continue releasing source code when it is ready. Hmmm That doesnt fit right. They justify the reason as the open source Android begins to fade away. The blog post also talks about their anti-fragmentation program. This is not FUD. Anyone who is familiar with Linux knows that fragmentation is a part of being open source. It comes with the territory. Given enough time, open source will fragment. That sounds like a Law. The only way for Android to fight fragmentation is to close its platform. If they do that, they will be walking a fine line.Will their developers still support them knowing they flip-flopped? Will users be happy if Android looks the same on different devices? To me, this looksВ like a slipperyВ slope.