Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling ‘open’ source by any means necessary

“Six years ago, in November 2007, the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) was announced. The original iPhone came out just a few months earlier, capturing people’s imaginations and ushering in the modern smartphone era,” Ron Amadeo writes for Ars Technica. “While Google was an app partner for the original iPhone, it could see what a future of unchecked iPhone competition would be like… Google was terrified that Apple would end up ruling the mobile space. So, to help in the fight against the iPhone at a time when Google had no mobile foothold whatsoever, Android was launched as an open source project.”

“In that era, Google had nothing, so any adoption—any shred of market share—was welcome. Google decided to give Android away for free and use it as a trojan horse for Google services,” Amadeo writes. “The thinking went that if Google Search was one day locked out of the iPhone, people would stop using Google Search on the desktop. Android was the “moat” around the Google Search “castle”—it would exist to protect Google’s online properties in the mobile world.”

“Today, things are a little different,” Amadeo writes. “Since Android is open source, it doesn’t really ‘belong’ to Google. Anyone is free to take it, clone the source, and create their own fork or alternate version… Google has always given itself some protection against alternative versions of Android. What many people think of as “Android” actually falls into two categories: the open parts from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which are the foundation of Android, and the closed source parts, which are all the Google-branded apps. While Google will never go the entire way and completely close Android, the company seems to be doing everything it can to give itself leverage over the existing open source project. And the company’s main method here is to bring more and more apps under the closed source ‘Google’ umbrella.”

Tons more in the full article – highly recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: By the way, here’s what Google’s Android looked like before and after Apple’s iPhone:

Google Android before and after Apple iPhone

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “KingMel” for the heads up.]


  1. Not sure how Google has any leverage. If Samedung leaves android completely, Google still needs all of those users to use Google apps or the company will lose huge profits. So Google has zero leverage, since they will have to provide apps to the largest mobile platform or they will lose out over the long term.

    1. If what you claim was true, Samsung would have parted with Android long ago. There is something in the fine print that continues to force hardware makers to remain in league with the devil.

    1. Agreed!

      Immoral is exactly the word to describe the hundreds of web trackers and “analytics” firms that take user data without any notification whatsoever. Unfortunately, we can’t claim that Apple is a shining knight in this either. iTunes (especially iAd and formerly Ping features), iCloud, and other initiatives are all designed to track your every movement too. Read the fine print of all new Apple software — if you do it online, iOS will track your every move. Just because Apple tracks your device’s MAC number instead of your social security number doesn’t really make you any more anonymous. Everyone on the internet is just a pawn in the corporate advertising game, and Apple is all in too.

  2. Google is a relatively high class high visibility company, and I would think they would want to associate with Apple’s higher end customers, far more than the average Android customer.

    I think Google set itself on the wrong path and suspect they might have done better by aligning with Apple rather than fighting, but it is too late now.

    It is a strange dichotomy.

  3. An OS with two parts, one open source and the other closed source. Sounds conceptually a lot like OS X! The exact divisions are different though: OS X has an open source kernel, web browser, and Unix utilities and a closed source GUI, graphics engine, and IDE.

    Some types of software are just better open source, benefiting from of crowd wisdom and interoperability. Other types of software are better closed source, benefiting from unilateral vision and paid developers. I think OS X gets this division right better than any other computing platform. You need both kinds of software to make an excellent computing ecosystem.

  4. Funny, earlier, a lot of people were saying that Android did NOT look like any version of iOS, when defending iOS 7, but then they say Android looks like iOS? What gives? I hate Android more than Hitler hated the Jews, but lets get some perspective here: The first Android phone, the HTC Dream, looked NOTHING like the iPhone, it even had a flip-out keyboard. It wasn’t until SameSong decided to rip off the iPhone with their Galaxy series. In fact, other Android makers usually have a completely different GUI than iPhone. HTC’s interface looks (at least pre-Jelly Bean) looked nothing like iPhone. Android had an unusual swipe mechanism that looked NOTHING like iPhones swipe key. That comparison picture is only showing the app tray, not the actual home screen itself, which still looks nothing like iPhone. I hate Android, but at least I’m rational about it.

    1. “I hate Android, but at least I’m rational about it …” and ” I hate Android more than Hitler hated the Jews … ”

      Really? You sound like a troll or a paid shill to me.

  5. I’m still giggling when I remember how Microsoft simply paid a handset developer to install BIng as their search engine instead of Google. It is the grown-up equivalent of stealing a kids lunch money.

    1. Why do you find that funny in any way? That was one of the things I hated about handsets in the 2000s. M$ almost killed some great handset makers, and I still don’t know how Palm survived when Windows Mobile existed. I had a Palm Treo back in 2006, and it surprisingly was good. And thankfully, I used Google. Too bad it can’t compare to the Apple Newton from the 90s. Microsoft is one of the reasons I hate the 21st century.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.