June 03, 2008
Android Likely Will Encourage Development of More Open, Third-party Apps
Android (News - Alert) and Mobile Linux are paramount examples of "open operating systems" for mobile devices. What that actually means is somewhat open to interpretation, though Google (News - Alert) has reaffirmed that the platform itself will be completely open, and it encourages, but does not require that all third party applications running on Android also be "open," says ZDNet.
"Open" for Google includes use of the Apache software license (ASLv2). Any software adapted for Android and already covered by a free or open source license will continue to use that license. That includes Google’s own enhancements to the Linux kernel, which uses the GNU Public License (GPL v2).
Any software that uses the Eclipse Android Development Tools plug-in (ADT) also will be licensed under the Eclipse Public License. The unknown is the degree to which third party developers decide their own apps are built with open or closed source code. They are free to chose either path, or to offer limited access to code.
Users will not care in a direct sense, but they benefit in a broader sense, as Android is an attempt to bring Internet-style openness — and the presumable plethora of new applications — to the mobile phone network, fast.
"Openness" is designed to underpin that development. But it is not "openness" that is crucial. Ultimately, Android, Mobile Linux or other contributors to more-open networks will succeed or fail based in large part on their ability to attract millions of users of the devices.
That, in turn, is based on the ability to create compelling devices and user experiences, as "closed" devices do. That will set the stage for everything else.
There's not much question but that more open networks are coming. What bears watching is whether openness leads to innovations we aren't expecting. I think everybody expects a touch screen, Web-optimized experience that is easy to navigate. I think people expect an advanced use of global positioning satellite technology and motion sensing.
In a sense, the bar has been set fairly high. Android probably cannot afford to appear in any way to be a "me too" device. Openness is just a way to encourage creativity. It probably is fair to say that if Android doesn't massively succeed, it will be because it wasn't able to harness creativity well enough.
Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
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