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An Android Tablet Victory May Be Problematic For Free Software 208

An anonymous reader writes "Glyn Moody writes at The H that Google's Nexus 7 tablet seems to be in a good position to shake up the market and pave the way for serious Android competition to the iPad. That said, he's worried about the potential downsides to a market full of mostly 'open' devices: 'Such customised systems are likely to be as locked down as they can be – the last thing either manufacturers or companies want is for users to start fiddling with the settings or installing their own software. As a result, the apps that run on such systems are likely to be closed source, since that's the way vertical markets tend to work. Such systems will also expose a persistent problem with the open source development methodology. While big and general projects find it relatively easy to attract interested developers, smaller, more targeted solutions tend not to thrive as free software.'"
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An Android Tablet Victory May Be Problematic For Free Software

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  • FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @05:17AM (#40612171)

    Android phones work just fine with respect to OSS.


    Discussion closed.

  • Re:FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <tellarhk AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @05:29AM (#40612225) Homepage Journal

    The author pretty much lost me as soon as he said it wasn't clear whether people weren't buying iPads due to size. Really? 7" vs. 9.7"? Is that 2.7" size difference _really_ a make or break feature for people that otherwise might buy an iPad if they're not already turned completely off due to walled gardens, pricing, vendor lock-in and Apple's increasingly frightening track record? Every time I read that argument put out there, I wonder whether the writer is seeking some kind of "balance" where there really isn't any.

    If you want the Apple ecosystem, you buy an iPad.

    If you don't really care about, or care for, Apple's ecosystem, you buy something else.

    That is all there is to it.

  • Alternatives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Meneth ( 872868 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @05:39AM (#40612277)
    Android is problematic, yes, but iOS and Windows are far worse.
  • by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <tellarhk AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @05:43AM (#40612305) Homepage Journal

    I used to be a naysayer when it came to that kind of thinking, since I figured there was room in the marketplace for open desktop systems and more tightly integrated and locked down mobile experiences. Unfortunately the last year or so have really gone a long way toward making me rethink my stand, and in particular the release of the Macbook Pro Retina tipped the scales. Once Apple starts leading people down a path these days, everyone seems to follow. Instead of getting something nice like a new, smoothly compartmentalized machine, we got one where everything was soldered and glued in place, even worse than tablets had been. Why? To make it a couple millimeters thinner.

    Microsoft's price slashing on Windows 8 may be most simply seen as a way to drive adoption of an otherwise ill-received operating system update, but after having used the preview for several days on my laptop I'm starting to sense where they might really be headed, and indeed that's a "Software as a Service" model.

    It may take another generation of systems or two, but that's where Microsoft is headed. Windows 10 probably won't feel all that much like Windows as we know it, and it'll probably feel a lot more like whatever tablet/phone combination Microsoft's trying to sell than whatever the ecosystem they have today is offering.

  • by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @05:46AM (#40612313) Homepage

    Enlighten me here; which particular Google services are violating which open-source licences? Or are you maintaining that they should release all code they ever write? I believe they're still free to make that choice for themselves (and luckily have chosen to be far more open than their peers).

    Google's own Nexus products can be trivially unlocked and rooted, by design. But go ahead and blame them for the decisions of other vendors and carriers.

    You may have missed how the Android 4.1 source code was fully opened yesterday, before wide release of the system. Wouldn't call that slow, especially considering they're under no obligation to release the Apache-licenced code at all.

  • by Flipao ( 903929 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @06:02AM (#40612375)
    I'm sure the success of an Open Source OS in the market would clearly doom us all, Preservinig MSFT's monopoly on the other hand is the path to salvation because well, better the devil you know, right?
  • Re:FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @06:04AM (#40612389)

    The author pretty much lost me as soon as he said it wasn't clear whether people weren't buying iPads due to size.

    No that's not what he said, he said it wasn't clear whether the interest in the Galaxy Nexus was due to the Nexus' for it's own sake or whether a lot of the interest is being driven by the fact that here is no 7" iPad. He then went on to imply that we'd see which is the case if and when Apple rolls out a 7" iPad 'Mini'. If it really is the case that people are mostly interested in the Galaxy Nexus because there is no 7" iPad we should see a deflation in interest in the Nexus as soon as the 7" iPad hits the market, if not Apple gets a kick in the nuts when their 7" iPad flops. He never claimed that device size is not a selling point.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @06:12AM (#40612415) Homepage

    Android has already won.

    If you look at the history of the PC vs Apple vs Commodore/Amiga, you will remember the remarkable success that cheap, ubiquitous success the PC (and clones -- this is important) had over the others. As countless discussions on the topic were held in those days, people kept citing the superiority of the others. The famous bouncing, spinning sphere... I miss that thing. It was representative of the future of gaming... fast computers and smooth, realistic graphics. (Just took a break to change my screensaver to "Boing" hehe) We, the engineer-technophile types were oblivious to how populations work and behave or what their needs were. We had toy lust and that was just about the extent of it.

    Meanwhile, Apple did everything they could to prevent clones of their products and were quite successful, thus ensuring that no market forces other than lust could influence people to buy Apple products. And while that was going on, lots of other product makers out there made awesome little things out there which were also rather proprietary in nature and just didn't get how important that compatibility was... back then, I didn't get it either. My step-father asked me when I bought my first computer from Radio Shack, "what's it compatible with?!" I cluelessly said "itself!" and asserted that I got this thing for me, not for others. This was at a time before modems and networks and all that... data was shared by floppy disk and sometimes even cassette tape. He got it, back then and I didn't... but then again, he was a business-minded guy... (but after he died and I was digging through some of his stuff, I found Wang and some of the other stuff that was fighting for a place in the business market... stuff superior to the DOS systems of the day... even in business, cheap won over awesome/cool/better.)

    And here we are again. Apple is still playing its "exclusivity" game and will lose in the end again. It's insanity. If someone makes something that "EVERYONE Wants!" and then try to control it, you will find that it will be hard to stop everyone from having it. Apple wants to be the sole provider of "cool stuff" and all the other makers out there want to play too. Meanwhile, people are picking up more and more android things, buying fewer Apple things and eventually Apple will not be able to support its legal assault on the world defending what it considers to be its turf. (Here's a clue Apple: It's only your turf as long as you can defend it... and that won't be for much longer. I don't care if you're right or wrong because it doesn't matter. People want what you made, but you made it too hard to get it. So what are people to do?? That's right! They give their money to someone else instead of to you and your lawyers. Death to Apple for being stupid and arrogant enough not to figure that out.)

    And here we are again... RIM and HP and Nokia among others were the "other guys" making cool things that were kind of like the thing that people wanted but they were "single vendor only" devices and locked down and that's not what people want. Sure, business WANTS to be the sole supplier of a thing, but that's not the way capitalism works in the long term. (And look at RIM... they have been king of the business phone world for a LONG time in some contexts... unstoppable and untoppable.) It's history repeating itself while no one remembers what happened before.

    And here we are again... Google is the new Microsoft. They didn't want to make the devices leaving that to the cheap hardware makers making clones... that was their plan. But the phone carriers kept spoiling the fun with their reluctance to release control of and upgrade the software on the devices they sell. That's a big problem for Google and its plans. So now Google has to show people the way... show them what they should expect from hardware vendors (which include phone carriers) and then they will wake up and say "oh, we are losing business to Google... we need to give people more of what they want instead of trying to control the market." Google will NOT offer devices forever. They are just trying to show the market (which is 99.9% the consumers and 0.1% the manufacturers and carriers) the way.

  • Re:FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <tellarhk AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @06:23AM (#40612457) Homepage Journal

    I think it's a fairly safe bet that when someone is shopping for a tablet, if there's a 7" iPad on the table next to a Nexus 7, they're still going to be making that purchase based on a wide variety of other factors than screen size. It really does boil down to ecosystem vs. ecosystem, or price, for most buyers. The fact there is no 7" iPad has nothing to do with Nexus 7 sales, because I think it's a pretty safe bet that given all the other factors out there to make a tablet purchase decision based on, the availability of one size versus another is pointless.

    The Nexus 7 will primarily sell to people who don't like Apple, or want/need to buy the cheaper offering on the market versus Apple's offerings. If Nexus 7 sales dip when an iPad 7" hits the market, I won't be surprised, but I don't think it will be anything staggering.

  • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @07:02AM (#40612653) Homepage

    It's not only Android from Google that is problematic to open source - the whole company is. They take open source and lock it behind internet services and hardware. Hell, they stretch GPL requirements by releasing source code months later and no one does anything.

    That is nonsense, their services all have high quality open APIs, mostly very well documented, and mostly for the benefit of open source integration. They don't give you all their code, duh, but they do go out of their way to allow you to integrate with it. If you can already integrate with it, it can't possibly be "problematic."

    You're obviously not even a developer if you're spewing that drivel. Now get off my lawn before I turn the hose on you!

  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @07:44AM (#40612819) Homepage Journal

    ..wtf does the profit have to do with winning userbase?

  • Re:FUD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:13AM (#40612987)

    Really? 7" vs. 9.7"? Is that 2.7" size difference _really_ a make or break feature

    Well, I've heard some people complaining that a 7" tablet is too small to read A4 papers on, on the other hand, Kindle seems to be doing fine with it. $199 versus $499 is what most people are going to be concerned about.

    And to flip the screen size thing around, the iPhone 4S has only a 3.5" screen, Galaxy S3 has a 4.8" screen, Galaxy Note has 5.3" screen; for a phone, that does make a difference.

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:21AM (#40613073) Homepage Journal

    Apple: 50+% of the phone industry by revenue, 80+% of the phone industry by profit, and the tablet industry?

    But a minority of the market by volume, and declining, and as volume share continues to drop, revenue and profit shares will follow. The problem with owning the high end and letting others own the low end is that as low-end device capabilities improve the high end gets squeezed out.

    the tablet industry? hell, let's just call a spade a spade and call it the iPad industry.

    The Nexus 7 hasn't even started shipping yet, but there's every reason to expect that it will significantly change the tablet market. Apple doesn't want to sell $200 devices with basically no profit margin, but it's very likely that huge numbers of people will want to buy a powerful tablet for $200. There really hasn't been a low end of the tablet market for Apple to worry about, because all of the cheap tablets sucked. The Nexus 7 is very likely to change that, sparking a fierce competition that Apple doesn't want to play in. It's very likely that the result will be that Apple will again find itself owning the lower-volume, higher-value part of the space.

    Unlike the late 80s and early 90s, I think there is room today for more than one winner, because the big, complex apps tend to be based in the cloud, with phone and tablet apps primarily being small, simple pieces of software, so it's not unreasonable for software makers to implement their mobile apps twice (I'm not sure they're going to want to do it three times, though; sorry, Microsoft). Even in the PC era, Apple was largely able to hold onto a high-end, profitable niche, and it seems likely that they'll be able to do that even better today.

    But Apple's single-manufacturer model is pretty much guaranteed to end up getting squeezed out of most of the market in the long run. I predict they'll be able to maintain around 25%.

  • by Zigurd ( 3528 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @08:26AM (#40613117) Homepage

    The trend in Android has been, up to now, in the right direction.

    For example, the Android Open Source Project originally did not have a development platform build target or reference hardware. Now it does. That means you can take the entire Android Open Source Project and built it and run it, instead of having to "root" a commercial device and port Android to that device before you can start playing with Android on real hardware.

    It is in Google's interest to make Android progressively easier to port because Google wants faster and more-consistent updates to Android across all the OEMs using Android. A vibrant and useful AOSP is important to that goal.

    Moreover, when faced with a competitor using the Android Open Source Project to build a competing platform and support a competing ecosystem, Google did nothing to thwart AOSP, or to make it harder for Amazon to use AOSP.

    Android is partly-open because Google uses a suite of applications and services that are not open source to create commercial Android products with the Google Logo, and OEMs and carriers add their own software to products. There may be room in the market for a more-open mobile OS that isn't tied to big e-commerce ecosystems. Tizen might be one such system, and Jolla might bring Meego back. If those systems prove to be more open, and under less pressure to provide exclusivity to their sponsors, they could turn out to provide truly open, hackable communications devices.

    Open communications devices, with open hardware and software, are important because they would enable communications privacy, among other qualities.

  • Re:FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bdcrazy ( 817679 ) <bdc_tggr-forums@yahoo.com> on Wednesday July 11, 2012 @09:04AM (#40613471) Homepage

    Why is I measured diagonally? Why are hard drives measured in 1,000,000s? Because the number is bigger. For 8.5x11, you can truthfully say the max size available on the screen is 13.9". If higher numbers don't mean better, we wouldn't have this problem.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's