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Android's Success a Threat To Free Software? 416

Posted by Soulskill
from the unintended-consequences dept.
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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Android's Success a Threat To Free Software?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:36AM (#30511866)
    I don't see the problem.
  • by FauxPasIII (75900) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:37AM (#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.

    • by nschubach (922175) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:52AM (#30512036) Journal

      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.

    • by killmenow (184444) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:54AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ceoyoyo (59147)

        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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MozeeToby (1163751)

          Unless of course you want to do something that Google/T-Mobile don't want you to do...

          I think you meant, "Unless of course you want to do something that you agreed not to do when you signed up for service..."

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by BitZtream (692029)

        Sadly, just like the desktop market, for the same reasons you just said, FOSS apps will be crappy on the phone too, since it'll just be people scratching an itch with very little motivation to make a good general product for others.

        • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:11PM (#30512930) Homepage Journal

          Not true.
          I am all for commercial and FOSS development because I see it as a win win. The truth is that FOSS can produce very good programs.
          Firefox is a great browser.
          Thunderbird is a very good email client.
          Gimp is a very good graphics program. I will not argue that Photoshop is better but Gimp is much more powerful than Photoshop Elements.
          I really like DeeVeeDee for making DVDs is super easy to use.
          VLC
          Audacity
          Adium
          7Zip
          and on and on.
          There is a lot of very good FOSS software out there. Now is there a lot of total crap? You bet but there is a ton of total crap closed source software as well.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        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...

        Don't you mean that the commercial developers will follow the OSS developers? Because that's how it actually happened. Software was generally free of charge and often passed around until some companies decided to start making money from it, going all the way back to ancient versions of Unix and other hackish OSes like ITS, in the 1960s.

        I'd tell you who to go talk to to verify such things, but they'd probably just tell you to get off their lawn...

    • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:58AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by StayFrosty (1521445)
        This isn't exactly true. While the network operators may be able to put pressure on the official Android Market to keep certain apps out, you don't have to root your phone or anything to install .apk's from alternative markets or downloaded from the web.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LordVader717 (888547)

        I still don't see the problem, as it's still perfectly simple to install software by other means. If you mobile contract doesn't give you unrestricted access to the internet, that's a problem with your carrier, not with the ecosystem.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:02AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vipw (228)

        The N900 is very expensive. Android phones may not be very cheap yet, but it's improving.

        Maemo may be nice, but it doesn't have a dozen Asian ODMs making phones that run it.

        • by the ReviveR (1106541) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:28PM (#30513204)
          The N900 is NOT very expensive (well not cheap either), it's about the same as any other top of the line smartphone. The reason it may seem like that is because in US you cannot get it subsidized.

          Here is a copy paste of an earlier post I made....

          Here are some prices from one of the cheaper web stores in Finland. Please note that these have taxes included and probably the "europeans are idiots" bonus (1 dollar = 1 euro)

          • iPhone 3GS 32GB - 528 euro (+ 12 month contract with "normal" prices)
          • iPhone 3G 8GB - 396 euro (+12 month contract with "normal" prices)
          • HTC Hero - 489.90 euro (no contract)
          • Motorola Milestone - 549.90 euro (no contract + 50 euro more for localized keyboard)
          • Nokia N900 - 569.00 euro (no contract)
          • Samsung Galaxy i7500 - 489.90 euro( no contract)
          • Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Android - 749.90 euro (no contract)

          Based on these it would seem that most top of the line phones actually cost around 500 - 600 euro (that is probably 500$-600$ in US) and even correlates pretty nicely with release schedule. Don't get the price on the Sony Ericsson, though it isn't actually out yet I think.

          BTW: People were able to get it as cheap as $442 from Dell [maemo.org] a while back. Don't know what is the cheapest now (nor would I buy anything from Dell :)

      • n900 (Score:3, Insightful)

        by js_sebastian (946118)

        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.

        I'm writing from one.... the "app stores" are just debian repositories, it's really an open platform... and the GUI is awesome...

    • by ProppaT (557551)

      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 o

      • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:03PM (#30512810) Journal

        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.

        Even heard of Red Hat, Canonical or even Firefox that gets paid by Google to include them as the primary search engine?

        Or how people are been telling for ages that "but you can make money with OSS by support and such things".

        Advertising is the largest revenue model for OSS now. With proprietary software you pay the developer directly and you don't usually get fucked over by the developer by losing your privacy for advertisers. You get what you pay for.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:43AM (#30512576)

      I actually like the Hybrid Open Source Closed source code...

      The Stallman GNU view of the world is way to restrictive and doesn't foster large support. Yes People are greedy, but except for fighting the greed, make an environment where greed can be used for good.

      There are some things Open Source has always had trouble with. The most basic is making integrated User Interfaces, it is very hard to find a large base of developers who are willing to give a good UI for free as well working with non-programmers who don't care about open source to help create work (such as graphic designers) for free. I am not saying it can't be done for a particular project as I am sure Slashdot will give a me a slew of projects that have a great UI. But to have it don't for many projects gets much harder.

      But there are things that Open Source does much better then commercial such as security and stability, and a lot of core functionality and features. These are things that good programers like to do and are willing to give it out just to help the community and/or make them selfs look good.

      Hybrid really brings the best to both worlds. A UI and integration can be recoded and redone as the need exists and the backend that does the real work can open so compatibility and interportability can be established and prevent anyone from having a strangle hold on the systems knowledge.

  • The obvious answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PolyDwarf (156355) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:38AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheKidWho (705796)

      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!

      • by PolyDwarf (156355) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:41AM (#30511920)

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

        • by ByOhTek (1181381)

          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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sopssa (1498795) *

            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.

        • by selven (1556643)

          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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by l0g0s (821841)
        When will we get a +1 sarcastic rating?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sir_Lewk (967686)

          I always figured sarcasm was a form of humor, so I mod good sarcastic posts +1 Funny. If the post is not actually funny, then chances are it's a troll, or at least flamebait. Barring both of those, and if it makes a good point, then +1 Insightful or Interesting work well.

          What we really need is a -1 Factually Incorrect. (and no, Flamebait/Troll don't cover it. Overrated is... well, an overrated mod)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sopssa (1498795) *

            -1 Factually Incorrect would just call for "I don't agree with the poster, but instead of answering and correcting I just mod him down without telling what is incorrect" mods

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dangitman (862676)

            What we really need is a -1 Factually Incorrect.

            I second that motion.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854)

        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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by clodney (778910)

          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

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      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.

  • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      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 So

      • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew.gmail@com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:20AM (#30512306) Homepage Journal

        [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.

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      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

    • 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 sour

  • Well, let's see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:39AM (#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.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Maaan... I thought we were going to put bombs somewhere at some point... :-/
    • Google has shown lately that they are more likely to lean towards very permissive, BSD-type licenses than restrictive ones.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Enderandrew (866215)

          The GPL doesn't have a "thou shall not make a profit" license. That being said, I think both GPL-style and BSD-style licenses have their uses.

          If anything, in Chrome's very permissive licenses, they're inviting Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple and all other competitors to steal from Chrome without giving anything back.

          Perhaps at times, the motive isn't profit, but rather advocating good code. One can argue perhaps that making the web a safer place leads to increasing consumer's trust, which helps Google's business

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mr. Slippery (47854)

      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.

  • by Raffaello (230287) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:40AM (#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.

    • by rpp3po (641313) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:53AM (#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.

      • by idiot900 (166952) * on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:17AM (#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.

        • by rpp3po (641313)

          That's really insightful.

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday December 21, 2009 @12:03PM (#30512804) Journal

          Yes, this is a point that I've made in the past. The BSD license is a better tool for encouraging corporate participation. The BSD license says 'you can keep your changes to this private if you want, but in the end it will end up costing you more if you do.' The GPL, on the other hand, says 'if you don't give everything back then we will attack you with lawyers.' The corporate reaction to the first is usually to evaluate the cost and benefit of working with the community and (usually, but not always) decide it's in their interest. The corporate response to the second is to look for loopholes in the license (of which there are a great many).

          Also I'd imagine the sort of engineer who would be able to contribute good code to something like LLVM is not too common

          Actually, you might be surprised. LLVM is a pretty clean code base, by C++ standards. The time between when I first looked at the code, and when I got my first patch accepted was about a week. I wrote the initial implementation of code generation for Objective-C in clang, and now have commit access to LLVM (which I haven't used for a while; I've been working on other things). It's a very easy project to get involved with.

          Apple keeps LLVM open source because they are not in the compilers business. They don't make money from selling compilers, but they do make money from the fact that high quality compilers exist for their system. It is in their best interests to release their changes to LLVM in a way that encourages other people to improve on them, and the benefit from the likes of Adobe, Cray, Sun and nVidia contributing changes. You get better commitment from people when they choose to be involved; no one has to give back to LLVM, but the ones that do all do so because they know that it benefits them. I put in a bit of effort and now have a working compiler for Objective-C, supporting all of the recent Apple extensions, that works on non-Apple platforms. Apple got some bug fixes and improvements to parts of the codebase that they use as a result of my work. Both of us benefit (although, proportional to investment, I benefit a lot more).

          I actually spent more time trying to understand the GCC Objective-C code before I looked at clang than I did looking at LLVM, and I still haven't managed to make any significant changes to GCC. I laugh whenever I go to the FSF's page about great successes of the GPL and find that they are still claiming that forcing NeXT to release the Objective-C front end for GCC was a win for Free Software; the code is a completely unmaintainable mess. Rewriting it completely in clang was less effort than understanding it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by maxume (22995)

        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).

      • by selven (1556643)

        And WebKit [webkit.org], thanks to which we have Chrome, and Darwin [wikipedia.org]. And a whole bunch of other stuff [apple.com]

  • 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.

    • 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. Thi
  • This is silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:41AM (#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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Enderandrew (866215)

      Don't tell anyone, but Android is Linux. It's a huge secret!

    • by selven (1556643)

      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.

  • What does the Android license say as compared to other licenses, the GPL, Apache, BSD, Apple and Microsoft for instance ?
    • by c0d3g33k (102699)

      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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:44AM (#30511946) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by rpp3po (641313) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:44AM (#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.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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

    • by vadim_t (324782)

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

  • Maemo (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:46AM (#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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by binarylarry (1338699)

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

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NeoOokami (528323)
        € 370 = 531.69 U.S. dollars About the same actually. Granted one's a high end smart phone, the other's just gold plated. Smart phones without a plan tend to run $400-$600 dollars, so the N900's price isn't that unreasonable. Compare it to the Droid ($559.99 without contract), probably the most on par Android phone spec for spec and the N900 is cheaper from quite a few retailers.
    • Re:Maemo (Score:4, Insightful)

      by c0d3g33k (102699) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:21AM (#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.

  • 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. 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.

  • 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 - pr

    • Re:flawed premise (Score:4, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:06AM (#30512166) Homepage Journal

      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.

  • No it doesn't (Score:3, Insightful)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:57AM (#30512094) Journal

    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.

  • by itsdapead (734413) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:02AM (#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.

  • by mustafap (452510)

    >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.

  • 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?

  • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:12AM (#30512222) Homepage

    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!

  • by mspohr (589790) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:12AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mspohr (589790)
      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.
  • 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

  • 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 document

  • 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 entitlemen

  • 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 d

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday December 21, 2009 @11:40AM (#30512542) Journal
    There is a distinct threat to FOSS in smartphones; but it isn't android, or even the largely proprietary apps running on top of it. Heck, on the software side, having a FOSS OS as a rapidly rising contender is at least as good, if not better, than things have ever been on the PC side. Especially since, if the underlying OS is FOSS, and that is what commercial applications are developed on, it is quite easy to compromise only as much as needed in order to run particular proprietary applications(compare to say, the situation with Linux, where most proprietary apps are for windows, so if you need to use just one, you either have to pray it works with Wine, or dual boot, or virtualize.) If both proprietary and FOSS apps are running on a FOSS base, you can freely pick and chose.

    The problem is the hardware, and the carriers.

    With PCs, there is nothing(aside from certain driver issues) stopping you from running whatever you want on your hardware. And, with a bit of informed shopping, you can usually get a desirable hardware configuration without too much trouble. With phones, though, the manufacturers and carriers have their hooks into the process much more deeply. While the implementations have often been pretty weak, allowing a variety of hacks, proprietary components explicitly targeted against the user are ubiquitous(SIM locks, anyone?) and even the FOSS components are apt to be more or less tivoized on most handsets that you can actually buy.

    I'd say that smartphone software is shaping up to be freer than PC software; but smartphone hardware is far closer to dystopian trusted computing/Palladium/NGSCB stuff than PC hardware is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Big Boss (7354)

      I'd go a step further and say the problem is that the low level driver interfaces are generally what's closed in these things. You CAN'T write a replacement OS because you can't get the information to talk to the hardware. Sure, the Linux kernel Android runs on is FOSS. But the drivers that make it possible to talk to the hardware aren't. It's the NVidia/TiVo model. And I have yet to see a real product, outside of the OpenMoko project (which appears to be dead), that doesn't suffer from the same problem. In

  • Hero with Android (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 32771 (906153) on Monday December 21, 2009 @05:26PM (#30517054) Journal

    I just played around with my Hero and found that underneath is no Linux distribution I would like to have. As soon as you get root access you have a security issue at your hands. In other words I'm still trying to find something like a passwd or shadow file since su lets me get straight to root.

    Conversely I keep hearing that the n900 one of my colleagues just got has a debian running underneath -sounds much better to me.

    Also the file system has been reorganized into something that doesn't follow the Linux file system standard. I wouldn't mind if they had put android+htc stuff on top of an existing distribution I can recognize, but no they had to do it all differently.

    I do find the android stuff nice though. It works straight out of the box together with eclipse and you can use you phone as a target without much effort. I really find this kind of welcoming to new developers.

    Now I heard that i can install debian and maybe use it through chroot or something similar, I still wonder whether somebody couldn't come up with a firmware that has android running on top of debian.

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