Android: the return of the Unix wars?
Posted Aug 24, 2010 17:15 UTC (Tue) by Trelane
Parent article: Android: the return of the Unix wars?
All told, Android has not made things worse; instead, it looks like it is making things better.
Jein. It's at best better than what was before--those carriers and manufacturers that don't wish to limit their customers' freedom have the option. At worst, it's no different--those carriers and manufacturers that *do* wish to limit their customers' freedom are free to do so, from just making their software proprietary all the way to creating hardware checks to make sure the customer isn't doing things that the carrier/manufacturer doesn't wish them to with the customer's own device.
So mathematically, your statement is true; it's at worst no different and at best it's better, so therefore it's better. (and since we have that lower limit of no difference, it'll continue to be "better" over all time even if the trend is toward "no difference" over time (analogy is the integral of an exponential decay; it'll always be positive even as it tends toward zero as x->inf).
That said, I fail to see how the statement
But that freedom also appears to be supporting a whole new generation of hobbyists, enthusiasts, and hackers who want to do interesting things with current computing platforms.
can truly be supported, particularly in the context of the license choice of Apache instead of GPLv3, where the primary difference is the Apache's preservation of the intermediates' natural right to hamper or infringe on the rights of their customers and users. Sure, it's more free than the iPhone, but not necessarily completely and not necessarily in the long-term view.
In the long-term, what we have is a race to the bottom. As some will point out when regarding the GPL, carriers and manufacturers that share the information back can be at a competitive disadvantage compared to their non-sharing counterparts, since their code is in public display for all to review and use, whereas their closed competitors do not share their improvements back. The Apache doesn't make sharing their improvements with their customers under the same terms compulsory, but rather voluntary. This, coupled with the possible competitive disadvantage of sharing back will IMHO lead to Android eventually becoming increasingly proprietary and balkanized. If the license were GPL, they would not only be required to preserve their customer's freedoms (a long-term win for the ordinary citizen, provided the products are developed and sold (which the rise of GPLed embedded Linux has shown is not at all implausible)) but in the end all of the code would be contributed back upstream (all it takes is one customer, so in the end it's shorter for the company to just share upstream from the get-go).
So voluntary sharing in the long term (assuming customers stay consumers and don't fight for anything but the "bottom line" (i.e. features and price)) implies proprietary balkanization, as Android is now beginning to show.
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