Sep, 26 2009

This is bad. Really bad. So bad that one of the lead Android developers themselves are insinuating this is worth walking away from the platform. Jean-Baptiste Queru has just tweeted, “To my Apple, Microsoft and Palm buddies: are you hiring to work on mobile stuff?”



First we heard it as a rumor – Google sent Cyanogen a C&D. Then we heard it from Google directly, albeit without names – here is why we sent the C&D. Now we’re hearing from the Android community and apparently the consensus is – eff you Google.

In the XDA Dev thread linked to above, Cyanogen himself provides the first response by admitting:

Yep, it’s over.

The speculation begins for pages upon pages and it isn’t pretty. You’ve got lots of revelations like this:

A big F U to Google and Android. My G1 will also be my first, AND ONLY, Android phone. I’ve been such a Google/Android fanboy since the G1 was announced – it’s ridiculous. I’m done. Here I come iPhone. Google can go F themselves.

But what does he mean by it’s over? What is over? How over is it? The innocent and well-meaning ringleader himself weighs in by saying he thinks that ALL custom Android ROMs are DOA and everybody might as well give up:

My intent was to make a ROM for Android devices using the bits we already have (proprietary parts) and everything else built from source.

The 1.6 Market was a leak, and most likely untraceable.

Android without the Google parts is not usable for an end-user. There is no sync functionality, no market, no IM or GTalk, no maps..

I was always under the impression that it was OK to do this since I don’t modify the Google apps, and only targeted devices which were licensed for them. Apparently this is not the case.

Might as well consider this entire forum cease-and-desisted.

Then I heard from Cyanogen himself and had a 15 minute chat that pretty much confirmed: this is absolutely out of control. We agreed on a few key points that I think everyone needs to keep in mind:

  • Google is TRYING to do the right thing here
  • It could have broader, unintended implications/consequences and this is the big question mark


The problem is that by trying to protect their few proprietary applications, Google is essentially shutting down the possibility of any custom ROMs from being legal. But they will still be made and they will still be distributed. Google is basically moving the modding community from doing their work in the light to doing their work in the dark. Forget about getting ROMs on XDA-DEVS… Android builds are about to become torrents and warez.

This thing hasn’t played out yet… there is a LOT still TBD. But one thing is certain – this railroads the entire mod/development community. At this point it is hard to undo what has been done… but maybe that is what Google wanted. Google played the bad guy on behalf of the OHA and Cyanogen was the fall guy who became the example/martyr. Instead of all the OHA partners trickling out letters one by one, Google could nip it in the bud by exposing Android’s larger than life community-loved hacker and saying sorry kiddo, ya can’t do that.

Cyanogen explained an interesting aspect of this whole ordeal… if you own a Google Experience phone you’ve already purchased that software. If you load up a custom mod that ALSO has those custom apps, who cares – you’ve already paid for that inclusion the first time? But apparently based on the C&D that Cyanogen received, consumers/developers can’t even legally COPY applications from their devices. Which raises the question – what is the point in the rooted Android Developer Phone 1 (ADP1)?

And this brings up a completely different question:

Google has always said the purpose in Android was to bring their applications, services and software to more people in the world. Well I hate to break it to you Google, but by Cyanogen packaging your unaltered Google applications in his ROMs… more people have Google apps and services in their hands. But wait… you also said:

We make some of these apps available to users of any Android-powered device via Android Market, and others are pre-installed on some phones through business deals.

Business deals? Yes… business deals. While Google tries to maintain the whole “we’re doing this for the good of the world” profile, they’ve still got shareholders to please. Way back on May 27th of 2008 I interviewed Eric Chu of the Android Team and asked him about Android’s monetization strategy- here was the response:

“There is no monetization strategy for Android, from the Google perspective. We are literally doing this because we believe there is an opportunity to create an open mobile ecosystem. And we believe now is the time to do it.”

I half believe him. The problem is there is a HUGE disconnect between the Google Android Team and Google Corporate Team. The Android Team wants things even more open than they are now. The Google Corporate team insists things be closed up a bit more so they can protect profits, proprietary stuff and send out C&D letters that mean more than they initially think.

My guess is that this was a move by Google Corporate done without enough exploration with Google Android and right now they’re realizing they just set off a land mine in peaceful mobile ecosystem. Perhaps Google had to do something. Perhaps they even fully evaluated the risks and determined that absorbing this backlash was worth setting the record and rules straight. I’m not sure… but this whole saga is FAR from over.

We’ll bring you details as we get them but man… at first I thought this was ruining the splendor of ADC2… now I’m left wondering how this will affect the legacy of Android as a whole. I think the best way to describe this whole incident in every way/shape/form and from every single view point and perspective was exactly how Cyanogen told me he felt about the issue:

“totally confused”

I’m in the “confused” camp. This all seems incredibly messed up but I think we need to raise this issue, voice our concerns and hope that Google and the Android Team are able to sort this out with everyone’s best interests in mind.


Stay tuned to Phandroid… we’ll keep you updated on the latest.

UPDATE #1: I think the backlash has been blown a bit out of proportion. That being said, regardless whether you side with Google, Cyanogen or somewhere in between on this, the below video (which I originally found in our comments) is pretty freaking hilarious:

UPDATE #2: For those claiming my title is over the top and contributing to the overreaction… you’re kind of mistaking the order of events. I am REPORTING on the backlash and using the words “Eff Google, Screw Android” to describe the backlash that has already occured. This DOES NOT echo my own personal sentiments. I have been very guarded as to my own opinion on this and stated that it is “very confusing” but that I think “Google is TRYING to do the right thing”. I’ve written 3 articles on the Cyanogen C&D issue and all of them purposefully stayed away from attacking Google… but if others are attacking Google in such a sweeping manner, I cannot help but report it. Yes, this “Phandroid”, but I still have an obligation to report what is happening fairly and objectively. Perhaps I should have used the platform to “calm the masses” and quiet the outrage… that is a different argument altogether and a more valid one. Perhaps I should have… but hindsight is 20/20.

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