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Cellphones Google Handhelds Open Source

The Shortcomings of Google's Open Handset Alliance 208

eldavojohn writes "Former T-Mobile and Apple executive Leslie Grandy reports some pretty harsh words about Google's Open Handset Alliance. We've heard grumblings before about control in open source projects, but now an unnamed former leader of an OHA member company is calling the OHA 'oligarchical,' and said, 'The power is concentrated with the Google employees who manage the open source project. The Open Handset Alliance is another myth. Since Google managed to attract sufficient industry interest in 2008, the OHA is simply a set of signatures with membership serving only as a VIP Club badge.' But what privileges do they have? Not many. The OHA's problems don't stop there; Grandy maintains that 'many OHA members are developing proprietary user experiences, which they are not contributing back into Android — as is standard for open source projects — for fear of losing competitive advantage in the marketplace.' She goes on to paint the OHA as toothless and directionless, with a nearly abandoned message board. It's been around for almost three years, and while Android has become more prevalent, the OHA's contributions seemingly have not. Do you agree that the OHA has amounted to nothing but a checkbox for manufacturers?"
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The Shortcomings of Google's Open Handset Alliance

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  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:49PM (#32076136) Homepage

    Its not a checkbox, but rather a shortcut.

    If you are making a smartphone, you need a powerful OS, with a lot of low level features, and as robust as possible an app market.

    And if your name isn't Apple or RIM, you need an off-the-shelf OS from someone else. WinCE (or whatever Microsoft calls it this week) doesn't have the app ecology and costs money to put on a phone. So you go with Android.

    So its not a checkbox, but rather a necessary shortcut, if you want to bring a smartphone to market, you run Android. But at the same time, of course you customize it: you don't want to be a commodity vendor.

    After all, whats the difference between Dell and HP? Not much. HTC doesn't want to be the same as motorola, so in order to preserve a competitive advantage, you try to make your GUI better AND don't feedback your gui changes back to your competition.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:55PM (#32076204)

    but isnt the Android UI just an APX application that can be closed source from the rest of the OS(why Helix and other UIs exist in the marketplace).

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @04:02PM (#32076292)

    Google's Android specific code is released under an Apache license which has no restriction on creating proprietary derivative works. Members of the OHA were not required to commit to releasing open handsets, and in fact some mobile companies are already planning on shipping versions of Android that will only run signed code purchased from their app store.

    This is what happens when you don't demand reciprocal behavior in your contracts and licensing - the freedom you give to others will be used to restrict the freedom of end users and third parties.

  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Monday May 03, 2010 @04:33PM (#32076656)

    Want a way to not be a commodity vendor? Make cellphones that are of good quality and can stand the test of time. A few examples:

    A decent keyboard on a slider. Blackberry is good at this. The Cliq is pretty decent too, although it would be nice to have five rows of buttons (including the function keys) as opposed to four, so numbers can be typed in without having to hit another key.

    A standard USB port. Micro USB is good because it is rated at a ton more insertion/removal cycles than Mini USB, and the springy pieces which keep it connected are on the cord (easily replaced) as opposed to the device.

    A 3.5 mm audio jack. Most phones are moving to this, but some use the 2.5" ones.

    A decent feel to it. Take a cue from the Palm V which was made out of all metal, and even 10 years later, still is classic and doesn't look/feel cheap.

    A decent screen that can be read in both direct sunlight, as well as usable at night. AMOLEDs work.

    Put some type of encryption on memory cards. Windows Mobile 6.0 and newer have a simple, yet secure way of doing things that is transparent to the user. Other ways are to use EncFS, or (best of all) just format the whole card and use LUKS with the key stored on the main memory with a mechanism of securely backing it up somewhere so a hard wipe doesn't mean loss of the memory card's contents.

    Now for software. Want to make a phone stand out? Don't stick yet another UI onto Android. I'm sure everyone is tired of spinning cubes and so on. Instead consider one or more of the following:

    Have a custom utility that allows for backing up and fast restore of apps. Apps that are copy protected on restore would be batch downloaded from the Market. It is pretty tedious to reload a phone app by app.

    Have the phone able to use the machine it is connected to for Internet access. ActiveSync allows this, and generally this is faster than just using 3G.

    Don't play games with root access. If people want to root their devices, let them. This is one reason that HTC is doing better than Motorola. HTC puts out the code they use, Motorola seems not to, so guess which vendor gets unofficial Android 2.1 and Android 2.2 releases first? Perhaps consider enabling fastboot on all Android devices, because people eventually will find a way to root the device, so might as well save them the effort and have phones have a vibrant modding community, which gets more people to buy those models. Best of all worlds would be to have a few models of phone which are meant for modders, similar to Google's ADP1 and ADP2. These would have fastboot ability for quick flashing of new stuff, and so on.

    Finally, for phones intended for business, honor some Exchange policy features. Like I stated above, have some form of memory card encryption (LUKS is ideal, as it protects the whole card), and not just support remote wipe, but other policies such as remotely wiping if not on the network after x amount of time, wiping if an unauthorized SIM card is inserted, wiping after too many attempts at the PIN, and so on.

  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @05:07PM (#32077136)

    if you don't give that freedom to others you're already restricting the freedom of end users and third parties.

    I hardly believe that denying corporations the ability to abuse their customers is truly restricting freedom.

  • by tcr ( 39109 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @05:20PM (#32077332)

    And I'm guessing that the members [] are sitting on one hell of an IP portfolio...
    Could be interesting if the platform needs defending.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday May 03, 2010 @09:27PM (#32080396)

    Right, but what average user is going to potentially brick their phone for what should be a vendor supplied patch? Rooting/Jailbreaking a device? Sure. A real OS update? No.

    Right, because no-one jailbreaks an Iphone because of the risk it might brick their device.

    Installing a custom ROM is easier then Jailbreaking, the SPL does all the work for you. Rooting is the hard part but generally someone uninformed will pay someone else to do it. Also neither rooting nor replacing the OS can brick an Android device, seeing as the boot loader is completely separated from the OS, if the OS upgrade goes bad you don't brick the whole phone, you just re-install the standard ROM (Both HTC and Motorola have them on their web site). To brick an Android device you need to break the boot loader from inside the OS, then break the OS and after all that you can still recover the whole thing using the tools in the SDK (Fastboot IIRC)

    So after correcting your erroneous information about Android and people in general, your point is moot, 2.1 is available for the HTC Dream and Magic.

  • by aliquis ( 678370 ) <> on Monday May 03, 2010 @09:48PM (#32080546) Homepage

    Thats one significant exclusion in 4 major iterations of hte OS

    Major iterations and major iterations.

    Aren't they more like rebrands of the OS for each new feature update/fix of the phone?

    No one else than Apple would had made a new smartphone (for the european market at least) without 3G, without frontfacing camera, without videocalls and without MMS ability when the first version came out. IMHO it just look like they sell more of the same. Kinda like Nintendo with GBA and DS updates (except I doubt Nintendo cripple them on purpose, "oh let's make these buttons really awkward so someone buy the next version!") Sure you want the newest one / most features if you get a new one but it's hardly a new product of its own.

    Though I'm no iPhone expert by any means, but I won't look at the iPhone as four generations of a phone. The earlier ones are way too recent and way too expensive to be considered crap you just throw away every half-year or such.

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