September 24, 2009

Google Files Cease and Desist Over Android "Hacks"

Greetings. If you don't follow the world of Google's Android OS, you might not realize that a tremendous amount of work related to Android is being accomplished by independent coders who customize, extend, and otherwise do great things with Google Android phones such as the HTC G1 and myTouch. By basing frequent (sometimes even daily) system updates on the open Android code repository, these unpaid enthusiasts have been supplying new Android features way in advance of official releases, and in the process are helping Android to move rapidly into the mainstream of smartphones.

While Google has done the community a great service by open-sourcing most of Android, I find it distressing to learn that perhaps the most prolific of the independent Android phone "ROM" creators (with over 30K active users) -- who goes by the handle of "Cyanogen" -- has reportedly just been served with a "cease and desist" order by Google.

I myself run a Cyanogen ROM on my G1. It's fantastic stuff. Cyanogen provides an array of useful functionalities not yet in official Android releases -- some of these enhancements may never be in official Android releases. Yet Cyanogen's ROMs don't cheat T-Mobile out of phone call revenue, won't steal gold bullion from Fort Knox, nor will they even increase global warming. These ROMs are the result of much hard work done for free by a single individual, simply for the benefit of the Android user community.

Google's dispute with Cyanogen appears not to revolve around the mostly open-source portions of Android, but rather relate to the fact that he is bundling into his releases a number of the very important closed-source Android apps, like Market, Talk, Gmail, and YouTube.

Cyanogen's argument is that he's only distributing those closed-source application executables into environments that are, essentially by definition, already licensed to run them, even if Cyanogen himself is not specifically licensed to be the distributor of those apps.

While I'm not a lawyer, I can understand Google's formal concerns from a lawyer's point of view. On the other hand, given the overall situation, such a stance seems not to be of the high "Googley" caliber that I would normally expect from Google.

I hope, and I urge, that Google and Cyanogen reach an understanding that will allow Cyanogen's Android work to continue and to include the key applications under discussion. Anything less could easily be a significant setback for the "bleeding edge" of Android development that may be crucial in the long run for Android's success.


Posted by Lauren at September 24, 2009 07:41 PM | Permalink
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