> 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.
It goes both ways. That is why it's a huge improvement over what we have with the iphone and such.
It's just as valid to state:
"Android provides for customers who don't care about being locked down to be locked down while other customers that don't want that do not have to put up with that at all."
Despite all the rhetoric about DRM and locked down Android phones there exist plenty of phones that do not refuse to boot unofficial versions of the firmware. In fact that majority of Android phones do NOT place much real restrictions on the phone at all except that they do not provide a easy way to get root.
For people that DO care about their software freedom they can very happily use many popular Android phones with almost completely open source firmware if they wish. (still remains the chronic issues with drivers and such).
It is far from necessary to figure out ways to force handset makers to be open... the open source community's #1 job in promoting open platforms is to provide a way for users that want freedom to have it and to make freedom as attractive as possible.
Lets not also forget that Android is Linux's #1 success story in the consumer market.
Google scored a hit in a major way. In the USA market Android already has surpassed iPhone and Blackberry in a fantastic manner and by the end of this year it's going to be close to selling more phones then RIM and Apple _combined_ and will probably surpass the entire _total_ iOS sales (iPhone, iTouch, + iPad) by the end of next year.
Google is activating over 200,000 Linux phones _a_day_.
Millions are sold every month and within a year or two it's going to be the #2 mobile operating system in the world. Only to be second to Nokia's Symbian.
This is simply huge.
Going on about restrictions and carriers being a-holes and dwelling on the negative aspects of the phone industry... which is a reality that Android must operate in, is completely missing the point that a open source Linux operating system is quickly becoming utterly dominate.
Given the easy hackability of the majority of Android phones (the Droid-X is the only one that I know of that makes substantial technical barriers to third party firmware, there are probably others but they are in the minority) this has given the most people the easiest way to get out of running restrictive and closed operating systems.
For most phones the barriers to open firmware has more to do with the nature of the ARM platform itself then anything really intentional or anti-consumer/anti-freedom.
Sure sure Google did not follow the dogmatic rules setup by the GNU folks and built a lightweight OS for small systems using a lot of Java-like stuff instead of the traditional C Unix environment... but by doing so they have made a OS that is widely attractive,solves almost all the chronic application compatiblity issues that plague linux on the desktop, and yet is still majority open source.
This is a unprecedented success in the consumer area, which Linux has languished for years. Sure there are TiVos and such, but nothing multipurpose like Android is and nothing nearly as interactive.
This is a hugely positive step. No question about it.