There recently have been some misguided calls to close up Android as an open-source project. Not only are these arguments rooted in incorrect facts, but they make the claim that it’s just up to Google. It isn’t, we all have a role.
I’m going to avoid talking about the reasons the close-up Android movement is misguided. Instead I’ll focus on all the great reasons to keep it open. Removing myself and my company completely from the equation, it’s safe to say that startups like Cyanogen and big companies like Amazon contribute considerable improvements to the Android Open Source Project. If Android were closed, it would be a lot more buggy, and a lot less secure.
When Google Chairman Eric Schmidt claimed that Android was more secure than iPhone, people in the audience laughed. Those that were laughing, were wrong. An open source operating system is inherently more secure than a closed-source one. The more eyes on a subject, the more attention it tends to get. It’s more vetted, and it’s safer overall.
Yes, updating existing devices is an issue. One that warrants more discussion. But it’s separate from the security of the current version of the operating system.
We All Have A Role
Consumers should keep reminding Google that open wins. Every time a part of Android gets closed, it tends to add bugs, stifle innovation, and limit the ability for app developers to innovate on their own terms.
Thankfully, very little of Android today is at risk for being closed up further. Google has done most of that work already.
What I think we should focus on, however, is pushing for more of Android to open back up. Android TV has been off to a rocky road. That’s in part because it’s closed source. Same for Android Auto, and Android Wear. Innovators can’t get access to build truly innovative devices. They’re pigeonholed into the reference designs that Google brews up.
Devices like the Nextbit Robin, BlackBerry PRIV, or IoT boards like the HiKey Development Board and Minnowboard MAX would probably not exist, if Android were closed source. Those devices not only generate solid sales, but influence the mainstream devices, continuously improving them too.
So we, as innovative people, can do more to rally Google to consider opening these parts back up. We should speak up more.
This week at Console we’re launching the OpenHU Project. It’s our effort to reverse-engineer the Android Auto protocol, and pry it back open. We’re starting with a substantial offer to the community to make that happen.
Android Auto is, effectively, a screencasting protocol. It uses open standards (H.264 transcoding, Android P2P networking, etc) with a private wrapper.
Google could open it tomorrow, and let any Android tablet work as an Android Auto head unit for your car. We think they should. And that’s one of the things we’ll focus on in the little spare time we have. Crafting not just a dialogue, but actual efforts that push to keep Android open.
Because open wins.