Thursday, November 08, 2007

What bothers me about OHA's Android.

If you have not read or heard the news, Google released a statement to the press about the formation of the Open Handset Alliance and their new phone Operating System, Android. The statement covered several particulars of the upcoming Android and clarified that the software platform would be Open-Licensed, specifically the Apache V2 license.

Google's Press Release | Open Handset Alliance | Android Overview | Android FAQ

So... it looks good... it SOUNDS good... but there are a couple of items about the OS that bug me. For starters there is the list of companies involved, many of which have spotty records with Open-Licensed software. I see names like Intel, Nvidia, and Broadcom in the lineup. I also see some notable names not present.

AMD is one of them. AMD has a large hold in the mobile devices sector with it's Imageon lineup, as well other extensive embedded solutions. I would have figured that in an effort to promote an open-handset platform that AMD would have been one of the top technology and software vendors involved. Considering the move to open up the source code and specifications for it's graphic processors, AMD would have been the smart choice for any true involvement with creating an open phone platform capable of 3D acceleration on open-licensed software.

Another name that is missing from the list is MontaVista Linux. As the leading vendor of an open-licensed platform for high speed communication devices, (12-14% of the market) MontaVista's non-involvement is not a troubling no-show.

The last name that bugs me that I do not see involved is Nokia. Nokia of course has the Symbian OS, which is also jointly owned by Ericsson, Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Siemens AG, and Samsung. While one might claim conflict of interest, Samsung is involved in the Open-Handset alliance. As the controller of the dominant share of the cellphone market (generally over 75%), that Symbian members are not more involved is a little disturbing.

Basically, I am questioning exactly how Open the Open Handset Alliance is. I hear a lot of nice sounding words about how the platform will work, but the real players of the industry... well, they just don't seem to be involved. As I see it, the Open Handset Alliance intends to go up against both MontaVista and Symbian which hold over 90% of the cell phone market.

I also see it as the losers of the telecommunications battles gathering up, grabbing a couple of decent software vendors and having another go at it. I'm not sold on that being a recipe for success.

Right off hand, if the Open Handset Alliance was truly interested in being open... we would see the platform being based on MontaVista and we would see involvement from AMD. We'd also see some involvement from the industry heavy weights to indicate that there is a genuine alliance between all parties involved.

There are some aspects that I am happy to see though. I for one am glad that Canonical is not involved. I must also state that I am very glad that Microsoft is not involved. I really hope that Android turns out to be a great product, and I think Google did the right thing by setting it up as an Open-Licensed platform. I'm also going to say that I don't mind the use of the Apache V2 license. I'm glad that the Open Handset Alliance chose to use an existing commercially proven license rather than creating yet another license.

I just don't think that they are going to eat very far into MontaVista and Nokia's sales.
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