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Android Is Not Really Open, Secret Documents Reveal


anuseems

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A recent leak of internal Google documents reveals that Google's dominant Android mobile OS isn't "open" or "open source," as the company claims. Indeed, licensing Android comes with a complex web of requirements that binds the hardware maker's devices to Google's extensive collection of online services and forces them to use Google apps as the default.

Put simply, Google is engaging in exactly the same product-bundling practices that got Microsoft in antitrust trouble around the world. But it is doing so with a far more invasive suite of services.

"In order to obtain key mobile apps, including Google's own Search, Maps, and YouTube, manufacturers must agree to install all the apps Google specifies, with the prominence Google requires, including setting these apps as default where Google instructs," Harvard University professor Ben Edelman writes in a blog post explaining Google's practices. "It's a classic tie and an instance of full line forcing: If a phone manufacturer wants any of the apps Google offers, it must take the others also."

Related: "Google to Settle Sweeping Antitrust Charges"

The timing of this revelation is interesting, as European Union (EU) antitrust officials, having accepted a settlement of Google's sweeping antitrust charges related to search, are now investigating Android. I've alleged that Google has effectively "dumped" Android in the marketselling or licensing the mobile OS below cost, or at no cost, in order to quickly gain market share and illegally harm competitionbut these documents reveal a new layer of wrongdoing: Google's agreements with hardware makers also come with important and potentially illegal strings attached.

With an ever-rising 80 percent market share in smartphones and 62 percent in tablets, Google is the dominant mobile computing platform and the obvious heir apparent to Windows, which still dominates the PC world. But there are many questions swirling around Android, including multiple accusations of intellectual property and design theft. Many believe that Android's dominance has come both unfairly and illegally.

The leaked documents hint at how Google monetizes something that is ostensibly free (not to mention "open," which it is not): Google requires hardware makers to agree to a Mobile Application Distribution Agreement, previously undisclosed publicly, that numerous Google mobile apps must be preinstalled on devices, that Google Search must be set as the default search provider, and that Search and Play Store icons must appear "immediately adjacent" to the home screen, with the other Google apps appearing no more than one screen swipe away. Because search is the main conduit for Google's only actual source of revenuesadvertisingmuch of an Android user's daily activities feeds the Google financial engine.

In case it's not obvious, an intentional side effect of these requirements is that it places Google competitors, including Microsoft's Bing, at a disadvantage. And the only way to avoid the Mobile Application Distribution Agreement is to replace key Google services and create your own mobile app storeprospects that are obviously difficult and expensive, and beyond the capabilities of most companies. (Only Amazon has done so, and its store is a tiny fraction of the size of Google's.) Thus, Android licensees are locked into Google's web, as are Android users.

Professor Edelman ably explains how this practice harms everyone but Google: its partners, its competitors, and consumers. Even if a phone maker believes a competing mapping or search provider is better for consumers, they can't use it without losing access to all of the other Google services that make Android usable. This agreement "surpresses competition," he writes, because "alternative vendors of search, maps, location, email, and other apps cannot outcompete Google on merit even if a competitor offers an app that's better than Google's offering." And "consumers do not benefit when Google prevents phone manufacturers from installing apps in whatever combination consumers prefer."

http://www.benedelman.org/news/021314-1.html

Edited by anuseems
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I do realize that there are serious monopoly related anti-trust issues involved here that should not be allowed to go unchallenged and we should all be concerned as the consuming class, but truth be told, as long as we have the ability to replace these default apps with the ones of our choice - just like desktop Windows/Linux - I'm not crying foul beyond a point. As long as we can install competing apps from the authors' websites - if not from Google Play - with full access (unlike WinRT), I'm personally happy enough. :thumbsup:

The fact is though, that most people can't be bothered enough to look around for replacement apps, which is why they still use the default launchers on their Droids and IE on their desktops LOL! The default apps are just there as a starter for people who don't need the extra features etc. But that doesn't mean you have to be married to those for life. :lol:

Wow , that's a very long sentence! :lol:

Technically speaking, that gigantic wall of text is a very large paragraph, not a sentence :chair: :P

Edited by calguyhunk
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Was probably interesting but I didnt bother reading more then a couple of lines. Cant stand reading crap like this. Where are the paragraphs? :(

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None of this is really new. There was an article a couple of months back on how difficult it is to actually fork Android and all of what that entails which is why only Amazon does it and why no manufacturer is going to. Sure you can make your own build, but then you have to write Google Apps from scratch and any app developer that uses Google's API has to write a different version for your device. How many apps use the Google Maps API for location services?

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dont blame him for unarranged text with no paragraphs. he has really interesting topic, which we need to dicuss about. Now my point. 1. I think replacing the default apps on Android is something everyone has done it. ranging from camera apps to keyboard apps and even play store apps. 2. its hard to believe but not only amazon has it by replacing Google apps, Samsung has done it, as it has been rumored that Nokia is about to do the same. 3. maybe the reason why Google apps has been dominant is because it hasn't had any competitator. you have done a great job, sharing This document, pls keep us updated on whatever happens as the days go by. will also do the same.

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What complete and utter nonsense, I wonder in what Edelman professor is but it isn't logic...Android the OS is completely free and open, google apps and services are not. You will get a completely functioning smartfone without the google services, no app is required to use the google api, you are free to implement your own, it's just that google's api is very convenient to use.

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hey, hey wait a minute, have you ever seen an android device without Google Services. even on custom rims, you need Google Apps to work perfectly. Most games recommend you install Google Services before they work. so what point are you raising here? did you read the documents, maybe you didn't understand it. please read over again. thank you

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Wow , that's a very long sentence! :lol:

I copy and paste any article it gets posted as a paragraph till I click full edit and repost it..

And sometimes full edit functionality doesn't work fully and resultant is a para..

Anyways edited now.

Edited by anuseems
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hey, hey wait a minute, have you ever seen an android device without Google Services. even on custom rims, you need Google Apps to work perfectly. Most games recommend you install Google Services before they work. so what point are you raising here? did you read the documents, maybe you didn't understand it. please read over again. thank you

No you don't, the fact that many apps rely on google services api (which isn't open) doesn't negate the fact that android itself is completely free and open

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So you understand the fact that Android is not open as we all think

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So you understand the fact that Android is not open as we all think

Android is 100% free and open, google's services are not, how hard is that to understand? I have repeated myself 3 times already. You get a fully functioning smartphone without Google's services. Merely the fact that at least onr fork exists completely disproves the op.

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Android is open but Google Services is not open. Okay Where can you find Google Services? Have you ever tried running Android device without Google services before?

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Android is open but Google Services is not open. Okay Where can you find Google Services? Have you ever tried running Android device without Google services before?

You really don't seem to understand that the reliance on a 3rd party application framework by other 3rd parties has nothing to do whatsoever with the OS itself not being free and open.

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