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Android's Success a Threat To Free Software?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the unintended-consequences dept.

Cellphones 416

Glyn Moody writes "Two years after its launch, Google's Linux-based Android platform is finally making its presence felt in the world of smartphones. Around 20,000 apps have been written for it. Although well behind the iPhone's tally, that's significantly more than just a few months ago. But there's a problem: few of these Android apps are free software. Instead, we seem to be witnessing the birth of a new hybrid stack — open source underneath, and proprietary on top. If, as many believe, mobile phones will become the main computing platform for most of the world, that could be a big problem for the health of the free software ecosystem. So what, if anything, should the community be doing about it?"

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416 comments

Uh...build your own free app? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30511866)

I don't see the problem.

Re:Uh...build your own free app? (3, Insightful)

ccarson (562931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512226)

Or not. Developers have a right to eat and pay their rent. There has to be a give and take when it comes to technology.

Re:Uh...build your own free app? (5, Insightful)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512244)

Exactly! How in the world can the platform be at fault just because open source developers have not jumped onto it yet.

This posting is just trying to create a controversy out of thin air. Must be a slow news day.

Re:Uh...build your own free app? (5, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512370)

Exactly, and big part of the reason theres so many apps already is because innovation is greatly driven by money and many people want to jump in.

Actually if Android was limiting itself to only open source, free software I don't think there would be so many apps made. This is especially true because they usually lack in UI and graphical terms, where the first one is really important in mobile apps.

Whole Android would be a lot less open if it didn't let commercial software on it. Even Windows Mobile is more open because you can install any app on it, unlike with iPhone (no, jailbreaking doesn't count)

nothing, of course! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30511870)

FP by the way, biatches!

Re:nothing, of course! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512362)

Fail at first post, fail at english.

Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (5, Insightful)

FauxPasIII (75900) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511880)

> So what, if anything, should the community be doing about it?

Ummm... writing good, foss apps to do the things you need/want to do? Seems obvious.

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (4, Interesting)

nschubach (922175) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512036)

Personally, I'd rather see an open operating system used for all apps. This way people can improve and build upon it and write competing systems easier. That way, if you buy Photoshop/Game/Autocad for Linux, there's a better chance that it will run (or be quickly ported) on a competitor so you don't feel locked to a specific company because you spent thousands on a specific app for a specific job.

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512044)

There really hasn't been a good one to copy from yet, though.

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (5, Insightful)

killmenow (184444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512066)

Exactly. There's nothing to see here. There is tremendous drive right now for developers with an interest in making money to develop apps for Android. The drive is there because the "promise" of riches is there. But, just like the desktop computing environment before, the commercial developers will be followed by OSS developers who just have an itch to scratch that no existing app handles, or they realize people are charging money for an app that is essentially twenty lines of code and they say, "really? they charge money for that? How ridiculous!" and write a better version under a FLOSS license. I have added a crapload of apps to my droid, all free as in beer and some free as in speech. It's cool to realize some of the games I play on my phone I could contribute patches to if I so desired.

One of the reasons I chose this phone is because I use the Android SDK and have written a few (VERY simple) apps and know if there's something I want bad enough, I can develop it myself and I don't have to root (or "jailbreak") my phone (voiding warranties) or get Google or Apple's approval to install it.

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512430)

One of the reasons I chose this phone is because I use the Android SDK and have written a few (VERY simple) apps and know if there's something I want bad enough, I can develop it myself and I don't have to root (or "jailbreak") my phone (voiding warranties) or get Google or Apple's approval to install it.

Unless of course you want to do something that Google/T-Mobile don't want you to do, then you DO have to root it.

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512102)

The problem won't be writing the apps. The problem will be who is the "gatekeeper" which allows these to be loaded and executed on the phone. At present, it seems to me that the network operators are the ones who determine what can and cannot be run - not because of the access to the phone but by allowing or disallowing access to their network. That's what they're trying to protect - not the phone hardware.

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512128)

Or support the N900 instead of the Android. It's not a totally open stack, but it's much more so than Android, and the apps also tend to be direct ports of Linux OSS. And the whole thing is less locked down to begin with.

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (1)

Funnnny (1409625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512418)

Or support the N900 instead of the Android. It's not a totally open stack, but it's much more so than Android, and the apps also tend to be direct ports of Linux OSS. And the whole thing is less locked down to begin with.

Yeah, and I love Qt4.

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (1)

Onaga (1369777) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512228)

Exactly. The reason the paid apps succeed is because people pay for them. Weekend developers of free apps generally can't keep up with paid apps. I recently tried to find an open-source alternative to quicken... epic fail. Oh sure, such-and-such an app may contain all the same functionality on paper, but usability, polish, and design are usually absent from FOSS. Please note, I said usually. So the main point of the OP that I want to reiterate, "good, foss apps." (emphasis mine).

Re:Okay, I'll be the one to say it... (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512502)

The big difference is Linux is free. Android is not. It's open source and free to use, but you have to be kidding yourself if you don't think that Google makes money off of Android. It's tied into all of their services. It's pushing them more advertisement revenue. Linux is most definitely not developed around a business model to make money.

The reason we have paid applications for Android is because it's a successful platform and people don't mind spending a dollar or two at a time for a new toy. No one is stopping you from making a paid Linux app; however, the competition is much more fierce with Linux. People create free software for Linux because it replaces software that would otherwise cost a substantial amount of money ($30-hundreds of dollars). People won't impulse buy productivity software. Feel free to write your own Linux app and charge for it...many do, but it's hard to have success on a platform based around free, open source software.

The obvious answer (5, Insightful)

PolyDwarf (156355) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511884)

So what, if anything, should the community be doing about it?

Gonna go out on a limb here and say "Develop apps for Android."

Re:The obvious answer (2, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511904)

Or the non obvious answer that many will resort to: Pirate it.

Of course this is just an excuse from someone complaining that software costs money. Software should be free of course! It's not like it costs anything to make high quality software!

Re:The obvious answer (3, Insightful)

PolyDwarf (156355) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511920)

I agree that pirating may/will happen... But, I tend to think that "The Open Source Community" would frown on those shenanigans.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512300)

Not the open source community I've seen.

"Use open source, if for some reason it isn't possible, pirate the closed source app" seems to be the more common MO.

Re:The obvious answer (2, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512466)

And thus they are actually just destroying open source community by using the closed source apps and helping to spread their use to companies and other users.

Only because it's not really about open source mentality, it's about wanting it for free.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512424)

Pirating software gives you free as in beer, but it cannot give you free as in speech. So piracy is not a substitute for open source software.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511956)

"few of these Android apps are free software" doesn't mean that they cost money (although a significant minority do cost money), just that the source isn't available.

The solution is clearly for open source fans to write open source applications for Android. They'd be a wonderful development resource as well.

Re:The obvious answer (2, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512206)

Of course this is just an excuse from someone complaining that software costs money. Software should be free of course!

You do realize that it's perfectly ok for free (as in freedom) software to cost money [gnu.org] , yes?

Re:The obvious answer (2, Informative)

clodney (778910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512458)

It is perfectly OK for free software to cost money, but since the requirement is to allow redistribution of the source, anything even remotely popular will become a race to the bottom.

If I pay $X for a chunk of software that includes source, I can immediately resell the same software for $X/2. Even if I only find one person who wants to buy it, that is a good deal for me.

That is why open source apps usually try to charge for support, customization or maintenance, rather than just licensing the core code.

So sure, go ahead and sell free software, just don't expect to make any money doing so.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511932)

Also "port libraries to the Android NDK". Which should be pretty easy, because it's Linux. Once you get them to build in the NDK you can use them in your Java programs over on the Android SDK side. A huge base of available Free Software libraries will likely encourage more development of Free Software on Android.

Re:The obvious answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512022)

Also "port libraries to the Android NDK". Which should be pretty easy, because it's Linux. Once you get them to build in the NDK you can use them in your Java programs over on the Android SDK side. A huge base of available Free Software libraries will likely encourage more development of Free Software on Android.

What's the good reason why libraries and applications written in C cannot be compiled and packaged for Android? I mean it is Linux after all. If it requires Java only, this is going to exclude a huge number of already-written useful programs.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512074)

They could be, you'd just need a Java frontend to interface with the rest of the system.

The reason Android uses a variant of Java is that it simplifies development when you don't know what architecture(s) your application is going to run on. It also simplifies development... Java has probably the most resources, tool and reference wise, of any language or platform.

Re:The obvious answer (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512152)

Bah Java

They could have used Not Det

I'll get my coat

Re:The obvious answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512408)

They could be, you'd just need a Java frontend to interface with the rest of the system.

The reason Android uses a variant of Java is that it simplifies development when you don't know what architecture(s) your application is going to run on. It also simplifies development... Java has probably the most resources, tool and reference wise, of any language or platform.

Thanks for a quick answer that makes sense. Do you think it would be feasible to arrange Android so that a PC with a cross-compiler can build any standard Linux app from source for Android without having to write any new code at all? That'd be great because it would instantly open up hundreds (thousands?) of programs. Maybe not a Gnome or KDE app but say anything CLI that uses the curses/ncurses library? Or would you have to write some Java for each specific application with no generic or automated way to do something like this?

Re:The obvious answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512438)

I am sure that Stallman would disagree and suggest instead that a new license is proposed. The new GPL 4 will state that if you run any GPL software on your device (phone, computer, what have you), then all other software on the device must be GPL'ed as well.

This could be a hassle for end users to sort through and ensure their compliance, but lets be honest, the end user experience has never exactly been a strong point for open source.

Write Free Software (1)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511894)

I suppose it isn't that simple. In any case if the platform becomes popular people with write the open free software, won't they?

What an Oddly Backwards Opinion Piece (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511900)

Worse, ifeffortsto enable Android apps to run on distros like Ubuntu succeed, then we may see closed-source software being used on the free software stack there, too. Ironically, Android's success could harm not just open source's chances in the world of mobile phones, but even on the desktop.

Huh, that's a really funny statement. I thought one of the biggest barriers to Linux on the desktop was the fact that we couldn't entice proprietary manufacturers (from device drivers to bulky enterprise solutions) to also release and thoroughly support a Linux distribution of their software. Hell, every other week we're bitching about the sad state of gaming on Linux or sound on Linux and let's just face it: you need to improve that before people will buy Linux for that purpose. And now we're concerned that proprietary will be released on Android? And it might challenge Linux? Good. If it can manage that, good for it. I assure you that if proprietary manufacturers see Android as a viable release alternative to Windows CE, Symbian, etc, that is when you're going to see everyone embrace an open source product.

And really, what's wrong with that? The people who wanted to release their open source software still are but now the people that want to release their closed source software still are and can. And the best part about it is everyone's using an open source stack to support their application.

I don't know about you but if you could replace Windows with Linux on the desktop even though 99% of the apps running on it were proprietary, I would be much more happy with the state of things.

We need both FOSS and proprietary software. Give both of them what they want like options to achieve their goals and then you will have a truly great product that helps the community and humanity as a whole in utilizing computers.

Re:What an Oddly Backwards Opinion Piece (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512042)

I thought one of the biggest barriers to Linux on the desktop was the fact that we couldn't entice proprietary manufacturers (from device drivers to bulky enterprise solutions) to also release and thoroughly support a Linux distribution of their software.

Having a manufacturer provide a driver is pretty cool, but having them provide the specs needed to produce a driver is far cooler. It leads to far better support, at least where people care about the hardware. Having them provide the specs and help with the driver is the best by far.

Gaming will work itself out if Wine continues apace.

I don't know about you but if you could replace Windows with Linux on the desktop even though 99% of the apps running on it were proprietary, I would be much more happy with the state of things.

You're not the only one; you may be in the minority of Linux users, though I doubt that too. Certainly the average computer user feels the same. I think it's clear that Free Software is the best future goal for users.

Re:What an Oddly Backwards Opinion Piece (3, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512306)

[quote]Gaming will work itself out if Wine continues apace.[/quote]

I really applaud the efforts of the Wine developers. I think their product is truly amazing.

It will always be playing catch up however. And last time I checked, The Sims is the best selling PC title of all time. It is also an old game that the Wine developers still haven't gotten to work. If they can't get the best selling game of all time to work, that seriously hurts your reputation as a true alternative to Windows for gaming.

I love me some Linux, but I rarely bother with Wine. Most of the games I got to work with Wine, I had to use a crack to remove DRM first. Most end users aren't capable of doing this, and technically it is illegal in the US. I keep a Windows partition exclusively for gaming because of this.

Re:What an Oddly Backwards Opinion Piece (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512280)

We need both FOSS and proprietary software.

We do? My use of computers wouldn't be significantly impacted if every proprietary program disappeared tomorrow, and many other folks get by fine with little or no proprietary software. What do we need proprietary software for?

Re:What an Oddly Backwards Opinion Piece (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512330)

While we don't need all software (or any software) to be proprietary, there is software that is proprietary that we need.

For instance, I work with a number of chemistry and biology labs, and all the software that runs their lab equipment is proprietary. Sure, someone could sit down and write a piece of software to run that GCMS, HPLC, or gel scanner, but why should they? The software comes free with the hardware, and NO ONE is going to start giving those away.

Re:What an Oddly Backwards Opinion Piece (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512288)

And really, what's wrong with that? The people who wanted to release their open source software still are but now the people that want to release their closed source software still are and can. And the best part about it is everyone's using an open source stack to support their application.

I agree completely, and would also add that real, actual freedom means having both FOSS and Commercial options. If the entirety of software 'must' be free, then that isn't really free at all, is it?

I see this as a basic moral issue. If you respect freedoms, respect them in others even when they disagree with you. True freedom of religion allows your neighbor to worship Satan, and true freedom in software means people will buy closed-source apps when they see value in doing so. Your opinion need not be submitted.

Developers, developers (1)

readthemall (1531267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512302)

Huh, that's a really funny statement. I thought one of the biggest barriers to Linux on the desktop was the fact that we couldn't entice proprietary manufacturers (from device drivers to bulky enterprise solutions) to also release and thoroughly support a Linux distribution of their software. Hell, every other week we're bitching about the sad state of gaming on Linux or sound on Linux and let's just face it: you need to improve that before people will buy Linux for that purpose. And now we're concerned that proprietary will be released on Android? .

Completely agree. The trick is to win the developers, and Android is successfully doing this. The more developers work on Android applications, the more popular Linux will become. More power to Android developers!

Amen, why not Peachtree and Quicken on Linux? (1)

jabberw0k (62554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512354)

Amen, if Peachtree and Quicken were on Linux, and maybe AutoCAD, ...what business would need Vista for much of anything? Bring on the proprietary apps alongside the free ones!

Re:What an Oddly Backwards Opinion Piece (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512460)

We need both FOSS and proprietary software. Give both of them what they want like options to achieve their goals and then you will have a truly great product that helps the community and humanity as a whole in utilizing computers.

I could imagine a world with only FOSS... maybe. But it seems to me that there's no problem with a nice healthy ecosystem with both FOSS and proprietary software. There may be some FOSS activists that disagree, but I don't see there being a problem with proprietary software per se. The bigger problems are proprietary/patented formats and protocols which block interoperability and draconian licensing terms.

If you make open file formats and open protocols, then you have the option of creating an open source implementation if you really want to. In that situation, the only reason to use non-free software is if it's genuinely sufficiently better that it's worth some money and a couple sacrifices in your freedom (sacrifices which you may well not care about).

Also, this idea of a "hybrid stack" (i.e. open source underneath, and proprietary on top) isn't new. It isn't now being born. There are loads of commercial applications that run on Linux; it's just that you may not use those applications for normal desktop use. And then there's OSX: it's basically FreeBSD with a proprietary window manager and tons of proprietary applications. OSX hasn't posed a big threat to FOSS, and in fact I'd say it has probably had a beneficial effect. It has helped weaken the Windows monopoly and has made Unix on the desktop much more common. Since it has good interoperability with other Unix/Linux variants, it's arguably easier to drop a Linux machine into a Mac network than it is to drop it into a Windows network.

Well, let's see (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511902)

"The community" could come up with a very restrictive license that doesn't allow that sort of thing, which Google et. al. will just not use anyway.

The point of open source and free software is that it's supposed to be better than proprietary. It's supposed to win on merit, not restrictive licensing or "the community" trying to force things.

Re:Well, let's see (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512320)

Google has shown lately that they are more likely to lean towards very permissive, BSD-type licenses than restrictive ones.

Re:Well, let's see (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512476)

Of course. No company is going to use a "thou shalt not make a profit" license. A "your customers shalt not make a profit" license isn't going to be very popular either.

It's one thing to limit how software can be distributed. It's a very different thing to try to limit how that software can be used after it's distributed.

Re:Well, let's see (2, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512488)

The point of open source and free software is that it's supposed to be better than proprietary.

The point of free software is freedom [gnu.org] .

The fact that free software is generally of higher quality is a bonus, one that the "open source" movement focused on. The guy who created the "Open Source Definition" has said it's important to focus on freedom [debian.org] , but unfortunately many still think that talking about people's freedom to use, share, and modify software is just too radical.

Not New: Apple's stack is hybrid too (4, Insightful)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511910)

This is not news in any way. Apple's platforms (Mac and iPhone) have been successful for precisely the same reason. They exploit open source for the infrastructure (OS and developer tool chain) and layer proprietary applications on top for profitability.

Re:Not New: Apple's stack is hybrid too (4, Informative)

rpp3po (641313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512056)

Apple does not just exploit open source, they also contribute bleeding-edge, high-quality code for GCC (LLVM), although they would legally not be required to do so by the BSD license.

Re:Not New: Apple's stack is hybrid too (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512130)

Remember: exploit has two definitions. Traditionally the primary definition was "Make productive use of." "To make use of meanly or for one's own advantage" used to be a secondary definition.

Re:Not New: Apple's stack is hybrid too (5, Insightful)

idiot900 (166952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512266)

In a sense Apple's contributions to open-source projects are a way to protect their investment. Even under a BSD license, not contributing back upstream is equivalent to forking the project. If they did that they'd have to spend a lot of time and money merging upstream changes down the line, instead of having upstream do the work for free.

Also I'd imagine the sort of engineer who would be able to contribute good code to something like LLVM is not too common, and (s)he would have a strong sense of wanting to give back. To keep people like that, a company needs to make them feel enfranchised.

Re:Not New: Apple's stack is hybrid too (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512482)

Calling Apple's compiler work a contribution for GCC is a rather entertaining way of characterizing it (much of the genesis of LLVM was GNU ideological resistance to certain optimization strategies).

Re:Not New: Apple's stack is hybrid too (1)

stakovahflow (1660677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512258)

Apple OS X & iPhone/iPod Touch use a FreeBSD base, mixed with proprietary code... But there is a slight difference, the BSD license basically says "Here. Take this. Just give credit to the guys who wrote this great piece of software and take it. Do with it what you will..." This method has worked very well for the BSD's thus far (using Apple --and Google-- as a funding contributor, et c.). It's a fairly new concept to the Linux community, though. Linux is generally seen, mainly because of its licensing (GPL1, 2, or 3), as more limited. This, too, is a miscalculation. The GPL variants out there, are really fairly liberal, if not communist. As long as Google allows the distribution of the source code for all the open source code used, there will not be a compliance issue. What's the harm in allowing Google to use the same structure as Apple, in regard to software, licensing, development, et c? Apple contributes to the community, in however limited ways, Google does the same, but in many other areas. How is this all so horrible? It's just business, isn't it, fellas? --Stak

Fixing it (1)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511914)

So what, if anything, should the community be doing about it?

Fix it. Write equivalent open source apps. There's nothing wrong (in my book) with running proprietary on top of open source (so long as this isn't a violation of the license). Value for the platform is value for the platform.

If the platform succeeds, the open source equivalents will be there eventually.

Some apps can't be cloned Freely (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512420)

Fix it. Write equivalent open source apps.

Development by a free software community works for some kinds of apps, where the requirements are well defined. But it doesn't work for other kinds of apps:

  • Applications whose requirements are a moving target continually revised by legislators and regulators, where ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY is a deal-killer because noncompliance could put the users on the receiving end of a lawsuit. This includes tax preparation software.
  • Applications that consist of more "cultural work" (things other than code) than code. This includes any game that is significantly more complex than Quadrapassel; see this post [slashdot.org] . To disprove, point me to reasonable open source alternatives to Animal Crossing series and Smash Bros. series, both of which have been around longer than Fedora or Ubuntu.
  • Patented programs. Apple, Google, and Slashdot's parent company are all based in a jurisdiction that allows mathematical formulas, such as those necessary to play ISO standard video formats, to be patented.

This is silly (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511916)

Its like saying that Linux is a threat to feee software because you can run commercial applications. Surley the key to it taking off is having a mix of free and commercial applications.

Re:This is silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512182)

totally agree

I work for a company offering a commercial application on top of Linux.
We've lost money over the past 10 years.
We've contributed some software source to the community.

I see no reason to be ashamed!

Re:This is silly (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512500)

I think the freedom to run non-free software counts as a freedom, and software which actively prevents you from exercising it is less free.

no different than before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30511926)

That's no different from desktops, where 98% run Windows or OSX, and 2% run Linux or FreeBSD or some other open environment.

Android license (1)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511940)

What does the Android license say as compared to other licenses, the GPL, Apache, BSD, Apple and Microsoft for instance ?

Re:Android license (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512048)

It is strikingly similar to the Apache 2.0 license (and some parts look like GPL2).

Re:Android license (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512078)

I'm not sure that's relevant given the focus of TFA. Apps running on Android devices are free to choose their own license, as far as I can tell.

Nothing (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511946)

It still means that more people is using open source. Maybe more important, is what is underneath, you can easily switch propietary "front" apps for open alternatives, but not so easily change whats running below them. And the advantages that give you that basement (probably more secure, auditable, even you could modify it, etc) will increase trust in open source to the ones still reticent to use it.

Could be nice that all Android apps to be open source, but buiding a mixed ecosystem around it brings more people to the party anyway.

What could be healthier? (4, Insightful)

rpp3po (641313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511948)

I'm sick of those fundamentalists. What could be healthier than an open source platform without vendor lock-in, that anybody can use to generate some income. I love what has been produced in the spirit of open source and nobody won't take this away. But the everything must be free mentality is a bigger threat than people making money by selling software in binary form for a living. Good software means months of work and pizza and coffee need to be paid for. And experience has shown that at max 0.5% of people pay for something that they can get for free easily and legally.

Re:What could be healthier? (1)

elysiana (1152995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512214)

I've been wondering this too and thought perhaps I was missing something. Do people honestly expect that everyone should be providing free software? How do they expect the developers to afford rent? Am I just misunderstanding what it all means?

And if I'm not misunderstanding, wouldn't free software essentially contribute to the poor economy?

There would be no FOSS without the fundamentalists (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512360)

Don't kid yourself. Without Stallman and his supporters there would have been no FSF, no GCC to compile free programmes, no utilities to facilitate the creation of the Linux Kernel and you would be paying top dollar for your Microsoft OS and applications. Before the Linux Kernel came along if you wanted in to UNIX you had to fork out serious money. Stallman, the FSF and Linux (that's why he wants you to call it GNU/Linux see, so that you get to know the history) changed all that in a fundamental way.

So sure, go ahead and say you are sick of those fundamentalists. What have you done to make it all happen? Nothing.

And incidentally, nobody is saying you shouldn't charge for software you write.

How is this different from the status quo? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30511950)

There is a disconnect between open source proponents and the way open source software is actually used.

The reason that Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP is so successful is that it eliminates a cost and provides a standardized platform that is easy to maintain and replicate.

There are billions of dollars' worth of proprietary software running on top of that stack.

Part of the reason for the complete and utter failure of Affero GPL is that it gives an implicit right of audit and can result in what the UK calls an "Anton Pillar" order which could literally result in a team of bailiffs seizing and searching your servers in case you modified some AGPL software.

The point is, that while there is public consensus on the use of open source for infrastructure, there is no similar enthusiasm for viral obligations nor is there any interest in opening up the value-add/secret sauce on the top of the stack.

Re:How is this different from the status quo? (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512116)

Where did you get the "audit" part from? The word doesn't appear anywhere in the AGPL.

Maemo (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30511978)

Vote with your wallets. Maemo [wikipedia.org] , the most open internet-tablet/smartphone platform currently on the market (assuming OpenMoko is dead). Not perfectly open, but a lot better than the Android.

From the 770 [wikipedia.org] in 2005, to the N800 [wikipedia.org] and N810 [wikipedia.org] in 2007 to the latest release of the N900 [wikipedia.org] this year.

There's even third-party clone [armdevices.net] which the platform needs to become truely mainstream.

Re:Maemo (1, Informative)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512018)

You realize the GOLD PLATED version of the N95 or whatever is cheaper than the N900 right?

Re:Maemo (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512262)

(I'm a different AC than the grandparent - I just happen to agree with him/her/it)

The N900 is expensive up front, but can use cheaper plans than the iPhone or Android, so over a matter of 2 years it's cheaper than either of those phones.

The price of the phone itself doesn't tell the whole story.

And price aside, it *is* more open than either of those two by far.

Re:Maemo (3, Insightful)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512318)

I did (vote with my wallet). Maemo lost. Google managed to get a provider that actually has coverage where I live to sell an android device. Maemo? Not so much. When ideology collides with the real world, sometimes the real world wins. I hope this changes in the future, because I didn't have any preexisting bias for android, but I can use my android phone NOW, rather than wait for the nebulous future when the planets line up just right to make devices available that run software which fits my ideology perfectly. OTOH, I can't say I have much to complain about with android so far. I've been able to run only Free (as in speech) apps to get the functionality I desire, and I can write my own using the SDK that's available. Seems like a fine situation to me.

Re:Maemo (1)

scourfish (573542) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512448)

According to wikipedia, Maemo is largely open source with some mandatory proprietary components. How is this different from Android?

Santa can fix that! (1)

Rotten (8785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30511994)

If he gets me an android-enabled phone this christmas.

Then i'll start writing free, open source, apps for it....but 'till then...my phone is too old for even thinking about writing apps for it.

Celebrating (1)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512026)

Celebrating. Now we have a program that we can point to, showing how an open-source program can be better than their closed counterparts.

Also, we need to be wary. If Android fails (gets a ton of viruses and spyware), it could be a large black mark on the open-source community.

flawed premise (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512070)

mobile phones will become the main computing platform for most of the world

No!. phones won't be the main computing platform. They're far too small, limited, have terrible human-input interfaces, too small screens and puny batteries. What we probably will see is devices that incorporate phones, storage, decent screens and the like. These will just use the phone as another networking interface and will be "proper" computers in their own right (probably running "Linux-mobile" or somesuch). There will be no reason why these devices can't or won't run paid-for or free applications - provided someone writes them ...

Re:flawed premise (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512166)

They're far too small, limited, have terrible human-input interfaces, too small screens and puny batteries.

Small: Asset
Limited: The new OMAP chips are pretty ballsy, and can do HD video output... and are coming to a phone near you
Terrible human-input: Bluetooth, baby. Bluetooth.
Too-Small screens: HDMI would fit on a phone just fine.
Puny batteries: You plug it in when you're doing heavy lifting.

I suspect that cellphones WILL become the dominant computing device for a time. Not least because it's much cheaper than buying a PC and a cellphone, and cellphones are fairly ubiquitous already... and becoming more literally so.

OT: Palm has by far the most apps (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512084)

The old PalmOS has by far the most "apps" and they don't have to be approved by anyone:

http://www.freewarepalm.com/ [freewarepalm.com]
http://www.handango.com/ [handango.com]
http://www.pocketgear.com/ [pocketgear.com]
http://www.mobihand.com/ [mobihand.com]
http://www.pdastreet.com/ [pdastreet.com]
and also: http://sf.net/ [sf.net]

I never understand why everyone is so amazed by the iPhone's "Apps". Handheld apps have been around for over 10 years.

No it doesn't (2, Insightful)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512094)

Commercial software is what leads to open source software in many cases. When someone makes an app that you have to pay for, someone else will write one that you don't. MySQL was not first, it was the answer for those that couldn't afford Oracle, DB2, etc.

Most open source programmers enjoy programming. One will see a need and fill it with their own project. The more people that want that need filled, the more projects and higher quality projects we will see.

No enlightened self-interest in fart apps (2, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512134)

And nothing of value was lost?

If I'm a developer trying to write a major app - say a wordprocessor or an operating system - I have a huge job ahead of me and hence, a good incentive to recruit the help of the FOSS community by opening my code. Likewise, the community has a stronmg incentive to help.

A lot of "Apps", however, tend to be fairly simple, verging on the trivial, single-purpose applications, and a good one might owe more to being a cool idea rather than a clever and intricate bit of coding. There's less incentive to share (and less incentive for the community to help).

Of course, the community still gains from the increasing popularity of the underlying, open source OS and the "big tools" (like WebKit).

I suspect that open source will continue to be better at systems & infrastructure stuff (where the target audience is programmers or other nerds) than user-facing apps. Nerds aren't good at writing software for non-nerds.

I'm so sick of "not free enough" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512136)

Listen, nobody is going to write commercial quality games and release them for free.

That's what this is about. I have a Droid, and the games are the only thing in the Market costing any money.

The Droid does more than the iPhone out of the box, and it does it all free and Free. Quit your damn bitching.

For fuck sakes, maybe Google could pay out to some developers for some free games, to enhance the sales pitch, but short of that - it's not happening.

Every iteration of the playstation has had an official 'free' development environment for homebrew. And yet, all PSX, PS2, and PS3 software out there is not free. How can this be? Where are all the quality Free titles on XBox marketplace, or Wii-ware? HOW CAN THIS BE! How could Valve not release Left 4 Dead 2 for free, don't they know that they owe the whole entire world!

Articles like this are why slashdot is irrelevant.

Easy (1)

mustafap (452510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512160)

>So what, if anything, should the community be doing about it?"

Support open hardware platforms like Neo. Buy the kit, or donate to people working on it.

All free/open source no free/open source (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512164)

With all due respect to Richard Stallman and others who agree with that philosophy, to expect that people are not going to write commercial software for free platforms is just plain daffy. Is it so unreasonable to expect a combination of the software?

If it's a good app, I think you can charge for it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512220)

I mean, if it has major uses to it, it doesn't need to be free. You can charge a low reasonable price for it.

- PC

We've gone long enough without real progress... (3, Insightful)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512222)

Look, as much as all this Cathedral and Bazaar/Chaos crap sounds good in some righteous fight against the man, I've been using and helping to build Linux since 1995 and what we have sorely needed is some form of direction and vision. OS X has made such massive leaps and bounds with a relatively small number of developers because they have a solid vision and goal steering their efforts. We just flail about and continually eschew any sort of cohesive goal. It shows. Linus doesn't want to take control and everyone wants to claim that it is not needed, but amazingly the Kernel itself requires this type of management and oversight... and it is always the most progressive part of the whole. But what good is the best kernel without a supporting structure? It's time to either take the bull by the horns, or step back and allow a company like Google or Canonical to do it. Canonical and Ubuntu have floundered and have not come out as that entity even with the success in interest they garnered (like Red Hat before it), so it's time for another to try. I could care less who finally does it, just get it done!

Actually, summary is wrong. (2, Informative)

mspohr (589790) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512224)

But there's a problem: few of these Android apps are free software.

Wrong.

I went and clicked the links (I know, I am new here) and if you look at the actual data in AndroidLib (http://www.androlib.com/appstatsfreepaid.aspx), you will see that 60% of the apps are free apps.

Re:Actually, summary is wrong. (2, Informative)

mspohr (589790) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512274)

Sorry for replying to myself but it seems that the author was referring to "free open source", not "free vs. paid" apps and there is no data (and the article submitter seems to be just speculating on his "impression") on that so please ignore my parent post until we can find some actual data.

Premise is one giant troll (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512242)

Would you rather the entire phone system remain proprietary?

Is this really a terrible situation that atleast the phone's core OS is FOSS, and that there is a nice framework for open development?

This is a good thing.

Please don't bother insisting that you're either 100% "free" or not at all. True freedom is choice. Telling people that they shouldn't have the freedom to run proprietary apps on top of FOSS under-pinnings really doesn't sound like freedom to me.

Linux is making more and more in-roads. I'd rather avoid the zealotry that gives FOSS a bad name. It really is counter-productive. If you care about FOSS and truly want to advocate for the growth and adoption of FOSS, then please tone it down just a little bit. Instead of attacking companies like Google which really push FOSS (releasing MySQL and Wine patches, paying for Summer of Code, constantly opening up the source to a number of projects, creating Android, creating Chrome browser, creating Chrome OS, funding Mozilla, etc), how about we support them.

This was the EXACT same argument with Firefox. Stallman and the FSF attacked Firefox because it allowed proprietary extensions. I wouldn't be shocked if the majority of Firefox extensions are proprietary. He encouraged people to boycott Firefox. Doing so would only benefit IE. Adopting Firefox has done wonders for FOSS. It was a gateway to FOSS for many people who had never heard of it before, or would never consider it before.

how is this different? (1)

naz404 (1282810) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512246)

How is this different from running proprietary PHP & MySQL code on a Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP server?

The platform underneath is FOSS, but what developers choose to do with the open source tools is their business.

I don't have to show you my PHP & MySQL code running on my website which runs either advertisements or subscription-based models.

Why does proprietary software for sale on the Android pose a threat to FOSS?

On the contrary, I say this is a good thing as more people will use the platform as more software is made available to it.

Moreover, Just because software is free doesn't make it good. GIMP is no substitute for Photoshop as any professional graphic designer will attest. I've used GIMP, and it's rather clunky and not enough for my professional needs. And Tremulous/Saurbaten is no Left 4 Dead/Modern Warfare/Crysis. Now back to the topic of free platforms:

I fell in love with the newest versions of Ubuntu/Linux Mint and with a few customizations and enabling of the Compiz/Fusion desktop eye-candy, my mind was blown away and found 'em even better than Mac desktop interfaces.

When I switched back to WinXP, I felt really, really limited as a lot of features on GNOME + Compiz Fusion were amazing for productivity and VERY VERY pretty.

Anyway, long story short, although I really prefer Linux Mint + GNOME + Compiz Fusion over WinXP, unfortunately, my professional tools of Adobe Photoshop CS4 + Flash CS4 IDE only run on WinXP and don't run on Linux (and don't forget my games! most of them don't run on linux!)

As much as I love the FOSS platform I mentioned above, the stuff I use to make a living and for entertainment doesn't run on it, so tough beans.

If anything, proprietary software should be welcomed with very very open arms on Android as it enriches the ecosystem. What good is a platform if there are not enough decent apps for it?

And PLEASE, people need to make a living from creating software. You can't expect everything to be free so pony up and reward developers for creating good apps by buying their products.

And also, notice that a lot of people developing games for mobile phones now are indie developers. Reward indie developers! Buy their games if they are good and are decently priced!

That is all.

Re:how is this different? (1)

naz404 (1282810) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512368)

Oh, and I forgot:

More people would use Linux if more top-notch commercial apps were available to it.

Thus, I beg to differ with the poster of this story.

If anything, the proliferation of commercial proprietary apps on Android will be good for everyone, even the FOSS community as the platform will become a bigger success and more developers (professional, hobbyist and beginner) looking for an audience to target for their free apps (should they wish to create free apps) will target Android since it will have a wider user base.

Take a look at the chicken and egg problem with any new platform:
A)Q: How do you increase user base? A: Have a lot of good apps for the platform.
B)Q: Why choose a particular platform to develop apps for? A: Because that platorm has a large user base/audience.

So as you can see, the proliferation of these commercial apps can only help the Android platform, and not make it worse (unless it gets flooded by crapware and there aren't enough compelling apps are developed for it).

Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512290)

The primary reason Linux developed is Microsoft's monopolistic tendencies. The market wants competition. I see no indication that Android prevents competition among apps.

Seriously? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512296)

Linux has always had proprietary aps as far as I know. My first experience with Linux (not very long ago) was, after compiling level 1 Gentoo (ug... not a good intro IMO, I really wish I could get those 2 days back), was putting MatLab on it, and getting the site license linked properly (as well as setting up a local copy of the license to work when the net was down and setting a cron job to sync the two when up, not sure if that was technically legal, but it sure worked better).

I developed software (at university) on linux, in MatLab. There is nothing wrong IMO with prop. software on a Free OS.

In a seriously ironic twist the software developed was GPL, so we made Free software that ran in a proprietary interpreter on a Free OS.
My adviser also ran Cygwin in Windows running in a VM under Gentoo, I still have to /sigh at that.

Did I miss the memo? (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512304)

Instead, we seem to be witnessing the birth of a new hybrid stack — open source underneath, and proprietary on top.

Maybe I haven't had enough coffee yet, but HUH? When did this become new? I've been running Opera on my Kubuntu box since day one (back in '06). I also do believe Lotus Symphony is closed source (or was at one point). Irregardless, it's not new.

And I also want to echo what other people have said: They're developing closed-source apps to run on an open-source system. Bravo! Good on them. In the end, as long as they respect the licensing contraints, it's all good in my book.

mU0d up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512342)

briilia8t plan

Evil (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512374)

Microsoft is evil because they want to enforce vendor lock in! How dare they try to push an all Microsoft ecosystem! Microsoft is evil because they aren't very interoperable!

What? You want to run proprietary apps on FOSS? We can't have that. We want to enforce a lock in strategy where you have to have this entire ecosystem of 100% free apps, or nothing else! And if someone dares suggest interoperability with Microsoft products (such as when OpenOffice contraversally added support for MS Office 2007 documents) I'll blast them for it! How dare they!

(If you think I'm exaggerating, read the Boycott Novell blog, which does in fact blast Novell for working on interoperability with Microsoft,)

Why Android Success Should Be a Threat To F.S.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30512404)

As I see it, there is nothing to worry so much about this division, open source OS and not open source apps. After all, forcing the apps to be open source because the OS is open source, is not the way to go. What the OS does is it manages the hardware and paves the way for the apps to do what they were designed to do. What the designers decide to do with their designed apps is something else. There exist proprietary and commercial software in Linux/BSD as well. How I see it is indeed like an ecosystem, a sort of evolutive selection. Just as new species develop in nature, the same is happening in software and in development. The software models change based on the same principles of selection which is not dictated by some regulation or legislation or SelectionsGodForce.
What the comunity can do is continue to do what it has historically demonstrated to do best: develop software of quality using its own mechanism, as we all know how open source development process works. Ultimately in the end, the most balanced software will remain. ('balanced' meaning combinations of whatever criteria the users will deem either valuable or not worthy)

Quality and consistency. (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512442)

I'm glad that there is at least some competition out there to drive innovation, but perhaps the one thing that might just be dying here is software that is given away for free? There is a new generation of programmers and developers out there that are brought into this market with the idea of actually making money for their efforts. Think 10 or 15 years ago when you appreciated getting your name (or 'nym) out there as credit for free software and not much more. No offense, but the debt-riddled entitlement generation has to be able to pay the bills.

I'm not faulting anyone for that, but just don't sit back here and act all "shocky" when someone wants to actually charge money for their efforts. Capitalism done right isn't a bad thing. It got the market where it is today. Besides, as least it's the base layer that is open source with proprietary apps on top, and not the other way around.

And please, let's drop this whole mentality of the "phone" being the platform of the future. It's not a "phone" anymore, it's damn computer that happens to have a wireless network connection built in. Stop calling it a "phone" already. It stopped being a "phone" about 5 years, three browsers, two touch screens, 512MB,400mhz, and 75,000 apps ago.

How much do phones really matter? (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30512468)

If, as many believe, mobile phones will become the main computing platform for most of the world [...]

Aside from sheer numbers, I'm not sure that actually means anything. Of the twenty or so applications I use most commonly on my PC, none of them would translate to a phone in any useful way, mostly because of the lack of a full-sized monitor and keyboard. How much gets done on mobile phones -- other than talking and texting -- that would materially affect anything of consequence if it suddenly stopped?

The main threat to FOSS is a broad failure to capitalize on its potential strengths because too much FOSS development is devoted to playing a rather childish game of imitating commercial software development -- a curious choice, considering that the shoddiness of commercial software was one of the driving forces behind the emergence of FOSS. What people are using on their phones has about as much importance as what's running inside the control box for your HVAC system.

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