As a former Android evangelist, I have reconsidered my views and have come to the conclusion that Android is not an “open” but a proprietary platform. Google themselves say that Android is not the goal, but a “vehicle” to ensure all people (including the ones using other platforms like Google’s own Chrome platform, but also iOS and Windows) use and are fully dependent on all the other Google services.
To make it short: Android is as “open” as Windows 2000 when the source code has been leaked.
What makes the difference between an “open” platform and a proprietary one? Let’s have a look at some properties of the Android platform:
- You (as the customer, not as a device manufacturer) can’t modify it for yourself (because your device manufacturer puts it onto your device and you are not allowed to be root on your own device; if you flash it, you lose your warranty)
- You can’t modify it for others (for the same reason: if you fork and release a modified version yourself, nobody will use it because as a user, you can’t decide which system you use – you get a version from your device manufacturer or service provider, and those cooperate with Google and won’t do anything that Google doesn’t want). You may of course do some free work for Google and contribute patches, but you may only do the dirty work. Decisions are made by Google only, APIs are designed by Google only.
- Strategy decisions are made by Google for the sole purpose of increasing market share and sales (that’s what companies do). There’s no claim to be open or fair, there are no rules.
- You don’t have the possibility to get involved in any way. Google has absolute power over the whole project, there is no democratic cooperation with developers – It’s sink or swim. In contrast, other Linux flavours are developed in a much more open way.
- From the beginning, there have been questionable decisions regarding open formats, tools etc. How many Linux systems without gzip, bzip2 and Ext support do you know? Why doesn’t MTP work with connected Linux PCs (I tried several MTP clients) but “requires Windows XP SP3+” (that’s what a Samsung Note 10.1 told me when I tried to connect it with a Linux PC using MTP; of course file transfers > 1 GB always fail)?
- Android is only a “vehicle” on the way to make all people depend on Google services. It forces you to use proprietary Google services (Gmail instead of email [WHY do I need a GMAIL account to use Android? A Google account with every other email address would be enough, but no, it has to be GMail!], Google Calendar instead of CalDAV, Hangouts instead of XMPP, Google+ instead of RSS/Atom [even if Reader won’t rise from the dead, it’s obvious that Google wants all content providers to “share on Google+” instead of providing an RSS feed])
- It forces you to do things you don’t want to do (I don’t want to have a Google+ profile, never did, and now I can’t rate apps any more because a Google+ profile is required for that). Also, nearly every click on any Google site encourages me to finally create my Google+ profile and drown into debility, or to enter my real name or mobile phone number etc.
- Oh, apps – the Play market is not “open” because there’s an entry fee and non-conforming apps like ad-blockers are being removed from the market.
- They call it “open” and emphasise that it’s based on Linux just to make people think they are the “good ones”. (Also think about the Summer of Code – how many money does Google spend and what’s the purpose of all this?)
- Of course, Google doesn’t give a sh*t about data protection and ignores laws (at least in the EU), but that’s another story.
Summary: They have chosen Linux to get a good base system and the “open-source” or “free software bonus” in the geek scene, but Android is a fully proprietary system whose only purpose is to increase the market share of proprietary Google services. There’s nothing open about it.
If you’re concerned about open platforms, you may have to look for alternatives.