Google Didn’t Open Source Honeycomb Because They Wanted to Wait for Ice Cream


We’re here at the Q&A session that followed Google’s exciting keynote at I/O in San Francisco and the very first question was something I wanted to hear about – where’s the Honeycomb source? If you don’t remember, Google came under scrutiny when rumors alleged they’d be holding Honeycomb’s source back to prevent fragmentation. They were accused of only offering the operating system to premier hardware partners.

They laid those rumors to rest, though, as they have confirmed that Honeycomb’s source was held back because they didn’t want users trying to squeeze it onto a phone. Ice Cream Sandwich – which was officially announced earlier today – brings the phone and tablet into one package and Google plans to publish source code for that as soon as they can after it’s launched.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. I know people will say “if Android is truly open we should decide whether or not we want to squeeze a tablet OS onto a phone!” That’s a good argument, but Google is NEVER legally obligated to open source anything. There is obviously some loophole that is letting them hold back the Honeycomb source. Spin it anyway you want – it’s their decision. You can’t really be mad at them because they never once said they wouldn’t be controlling the ecosystem a little bit. Put those pitchforks down and just wait for Ice Cream Sandwich, folks.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. So they wont be releases HC at all? So I have to wait until Q4 for custom ROMs on my Xoom? BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    1. Agreed, booo!

    2. You’ll have 3.1 and movies galore. That should tie you over.

      1. yes, neither of which is CUSTOM ROMS

        1. The man said 3.1 and movies galore.. not sit down and enjoy the google…

    3. Agreed, boooooo. This overshadows anything Android does until the source is released. This is killing innovation in the tablet world and I can find no good reason for it.

  2. will ice cream sandwich include hardware acceleration?

    1. That’s what I hope too!! Can anyone confirm it?

      1. It’s a given. Why? Honeycomb already has it, so why would the next tablet/phone OS neglect to include it after developers have already dropped in their one line of code that takes advantage of it?

    2. yes of course, its next to honeycomb that has hardware accleration for the first time.

  3. Ice Cream Sandwich was NOT announced today as far as I can see. Android 3.1 is only known as HONEYCOMB_MR1, similar to how 2.1 was ECLAIR_MR1… I’m guessing it stands for “maintenance release 1”. See

    1. It was announced for quarter four. I watched the keynote live this morning.

  4. They said this right from the get go when they said they won’t release HC. But you had all these non dev folk running around talking about what open is and isn’t that couldn’t name more than one open source license.

  5. I’m not mad at Google but your argument that Google is NEVER obligated to open source anything is completely wrong. Read the GPL and Apache License. They’re legally binding

    1. @f3e232ee129f31366b9e744d1e7ca942:disqus
      Android is using a mix of licenses. Some of it is NOT under GPL, but instead under BSD license. Those parts Google does not have to open source.
      They have however said they will open source it eventually.
      Did you also get angry about Apple not releasing the newer source code for Webkit? That is LGPL and are required to release it. They were non compliant for months. That is a bigger deal than Honeycomb, as it’s an actual license violation.

      1. Honeycomb is shipping and has GPL parts which have not been released. That too is a license violation. You can be annoyed at both Google and Apple at once.

        1. IANAL
          But from what I gather on this site’s view on the licensing, Google hasn’t broken any license agreements.

          The kernel and kernel headers are the main GPL parts of Android, the rest is not.

        2. @9974563af24696bc9b91e0b172e54321:disqus Here are the Nvidia sources for Honeycomb

          Asus has released the kernel modifications as well.. No violation.. Just deserved frustration from modders.

  6. Yeah my G-Tab will have no Honeycomb ever :-/

  7. They weren’t obligated to adopt Apache and GPL (although they were if they wanted to use stuff like the Linux kernel), but because they did, they are in fact legally obligated to abide by those licenses’ rules about open sourcing code.

  8. Wow the cluelessness amuses me. No google isn’t obligated to release anything. But wont get into the legal part as the previous poster probly wouldn’t understand it. And ice cream sandwich was Officially announced today. And its not what honeycomb is becoming but a combination of gingerbread and honeycomb optimized for phones.

    Why do people that have no clue post like they have an idea of what they are talking about?

    1. Isn’t that what this board is all about? Some of us go 5 whole minutes without updates. It’s rough out here in the cold, cruel world.

  9. I disagree with Google on the whole honeycomb thing but we will get over it. It goes against the precedent they set, how they are telling us that “they know what is best for us and we need to be stopped for our own good.” .. its very Apple.

    That said, I am sure we will be able to do some great things with Ice Cream Sandwhich, if someone ones a Tablet OS on their phone.. I’m sure some hackers will be able to make the needed changes so that it works just how it does on the Xoom and what not.

    1. I think they are referring more to manufactures and not to modders and hackers. This is a a business first and for most and quality control is needed because WP7 and IOS are real competitors and if the user experience is sub par on our devices its Google who stands to lose. Then their will be no code for us to mess around with.

  10. Gotta love how phandroids justify Google going back on their philosophy on a “legally obligated” technicality.

  11. Does anyone else feel like the whole tablet thing has been a huge distraction from phones?

    Basically, Google IO convinced me that I don’t have to upgrade my Nexus One until Ice Crem Sandwich is released unless I have a particular interest in Video Chat or NFC, which I don’t. The phones they’ve been putting out are very lackluster.

  12. It’s called bait and switch. Google is just plain evil at this point. It really sucks, but it’s just business.

  13. If Google wants to be open-source, a.k.a., if Google wants to oblige by the GNU GPL, they are required to release source code.

    1. If they want to oblige by GPL, they have to release the GPL portions of the Source. They did. They are. They are violating the spirit, but not the letter.

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