Is Android Evil? Insight from Andreas Constantinou

Discussions

News: Is Android Evil? Insight from Andreas Constantinou

  1. "Google’s mobile platform is the smartest implementation of open source designed for driving commercial agendas." That's what Andreas has to say about Android.

    In his latest online posting, Andreas disrobes Google and the Android platform, demonstrating that perhaps Google isn't necessarily the "White Knight" in this battle with Oracle.

    How does Google control Android? He provides eight interesting points, which boil down to the following points:

    1. Private branches
    2. Closed review process
    3. Speed of evolution
    4. Incomplete software
    5. Gated developer community
    6. Anti-fragmentation agreement
    7. Private roadmap
    8. Android trademark

    Of course, each point is elaborated upon in his posting. But don't get the impression that the article is a bash at Google. It's not. But it does help to put the Google mobile platform into some perspective. "The point of the article is not to vilify Google or concoct visions of Darth Vader; but to balance the level of openness hysteria with a reality check on the commercial dynamics of mobile open source."

    http://www.visionmobile.com/blog/2010/04/is-android-evil/

    Threaded Messages (32)

  2. Of all the mobile platforms out there Android is the least evil because its entire stack is open source: OS, VM, toolchains, and at the same time is successful.

    iPhone is proprietary, but good.

    Java ME is proprietary, but not so good.

    Symbian is open source but not so good.

    MSFT new phone technology is proprietary, and we shall we if it is good.

    Android is open source and good.

     

    Sure, Android is not doing everything perfectly, and sure it does make mistakes, but compared to other mobile solution stacks, Android is the least evil of them all.

     

  3. Java ME is an open standard defined by the JCP. Although it doesn't currently exist, there is no reason why an open source version of Java ME could not be developed, just as there are open source implementations of Java EE and Java ME. It is very true that there is a lot of room for improvement for Java ME. I would go so far as to say it is a model that should be re-engineered from the ground-up.

    Open source is neither good nor evil by itself but simply a developement model (and a very effective one that most companies embrace to various degrees) that some people attach more political rhetoric than is really necessary...

    Cheers,

    Reza

  4. "Open source is neither good nor evil"

    Open source is more good than evil from simple fact that it gives knowledge for free to the masses, thus positively contributing to the economy/society. The fact that anyone interested in mobile technology can see and learn what experts did in Android, and do so for free, is clear indicator that open source contributes more to the benefit of all of us.

    "there is no reason why an open source version of Java ME could not be developed"

    It could be developed but it would face same fate as Apache Harmony, which leads to obvious conclusion why bother in the first place with such as legacy technology as Java ME (clearly shown by dominance of iPhone and Android in next generation phone market) since there are more advanced alternatives, such as building, let's say, clone of Android.

  5. Chief,

    Clearly there are benefits to the open source model, just as there are equally valid arguments for closed-source software as well as standardization. The point is that just because something is open source does not automatically make it right. There are plenty of mercenary practices around open source. As the article indicates as its main point, Google employs almost all of them. Now, it is a matter of opinion if Android being open source off-sets the negative aspects of these practices. My opinion is that it does not, especially when there is an open standard at play that Google could choose to contribute to.

    As for Apache Harmony, their major objection is that the TCK is not open source and they apply the same irrational, one-sided and intolerant attitudes that most of the FSF-ish open source community employs. There are significant problems with open-sourcing the TCK - namely the risk of fragmentation that Andriod now vididly demostrates.

    Cheers,

    Reza

  6. "The point is that just because something is open source does not automatically make it right...My opinion is that it does not"

    In Android's case it makes it right because both the consumers and developers have benefited from Android. Consumers can purchase next generation smart phones that they like, thus giving them another option besides iPhone, which reduces smart phone prices, thus again benefiting the consumers. Hence, consumers have more choice and lower prices for next generation smart phones. It benefits the developers because it provides development platform which can be used to satisfy needs of consumers in this new era of mobile phones, and something legacy Java ME technology can not do at this moment, which is clearly shown by Java ME compliant Nokia which is rapidly losing market share to iPhone/Android.

    In conclusion, I fail to see any evidence that Android has hurt either consumers or developers in any way whatsoever, and these tow categories are, IMHO, only thing that actually counts in this discussion.

    "namely the risk of fragmentation that Andriod now vididly demostrates"

    This is completely untrue because:

    "Dalvik does not license Java, does not use Java trademarks, does not claim to be Java compatible,
    and does not have to comply with Java compliance testing, or the terms of Java licensing. This is very different from Microsoft and J++ in which Microsoft broke Java licensing terms by licensing Java, and then trying to embrace and extend Java into a non-compatible form (which broke the terms of licensing)."

  7. Chief,

    It is correct that the Google case is not identical to the MS challenges to Java portability. It is clear Google made efforts to avoid Microsoft's mistakes, including "embracing" open source to readily mobilize a legion of zealots. Whether it has done enough to not threaten Java compatibility is an open question and plenty of responsible industry analysts believe that is does pose a compatibility threat (FYI this includes James Gosling): http://www.wirelessweek.com/News/2010/08/Policy-and-Industry-QA-Oracle-Google-Lawsuit-Legal/

    The issues are myriad and hard to ignore:

    1. It uses a lot of Apache Harmony code.

    2. It supports Java syntax almost 100%.

    3. It supports a large subset of the Java SE API.

    4. The language used in Andriod has no separate name and the "Java Programming Language" is referenced in the documentation.

    5. The Dalvik byte-code is not all that different from Java byte-code in the way that .NET CLR byte-code is. Indeed, there seems to be no strong technical reason to have a separate byte-code format at all other than side-stepping Java compatibility requirements.

    6. Javac is used to compile Andriod code. In fact, a majority of Java tools can be used as-is for Andriod developenment.

    7. Most Adroid developers think they are developing on an incompatible version of Java. In fact, some of your own posts reflect this impression.

    And the list of compatibility problems don't just end at this. Hope it helps...

    Cheers,

    Reza

  8. "to readily mobilize a legion of zealots."

    Thank you Reza for flagging once again everyone who disagrees with you as zealot.

     

    "1. It uses a lot of Apache Harmony code"

    Yes, license of Harmony allows such usage.

    "2. It supports Java syntax almost 100%."

    Under the current US law you can not patent/copyright programming language, and I can link you relevant lawsuit decision if you prefer. You can trademark the name of the language, and Android does no violate that trademark.

    "3. It supports a large subset of the Java SE API"

    Whether or not you can patent/copyright the API coule be an open question. For example, is Java violating the copyright of some previous programming language by having class Map with given API.

    4. The language used in Andriod has no separate name and the "Java Programming Language" is referenced in the documentation.

    I can refer to any trademark name in any kind of documentation as long as I mention that given name is under trademark. I am sure Android documentation mentions that Java is Oracle's trademark, and if it does not do so, then I do agree that it is potential trademark (but not patent or copyright) violation.

    "5. The Dalvik byte-code is not all that different from Java byte-code in the way that"

    You are here defining arbitrary equivalences. In your statement you admin it is different.

    "6. Javac is used to compile Andriod code. In fact, a majority of Java tools can be used as-is for Andriod developenment."

    Which is allowed under the development licence you accept when downloading Oracle's JDK.

    "7. Most Adroid developers think they are developing on an incompatible version of Java."

    What you think that someone thinks has no value in either court nor in this discussion.

  9. Chief,

    I think the point I am really trying to make here could stand further explanation...

    Whether Android fragments Java isn't primarily a legal concern, it is a practical concern that may or may not have valid legal ramifications - which is probably exactly why Oracle did not explicitly mention it in the lawsuit. As we all know, not all strictly "legal" actions are necessarily the right thing to pursue :-).

    The main legal crux of the case is not Java, standardization or open source. It is whether Andriod violates VM patents that Sun/Oracle holds.

    I agree with the latter poster that the practical implications of the lawsuit on either Java or Andriod is unlikely to be significant. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the end result will be a net positive for the majority of people :-).

    Cheers,

    Reza

  10. "The main legal crux of the case is not Java, standardization or open source. It is whether Andriod violates VM patents that Sun/Oracle holds."

    I have no problem with Oracle pursuing their aleged IP, under the current law they have that right, and laws are subject to change and we shall see how it turns out. My main "problem" was making this lawsuit look like, intentionally or not, it is somehow defending the Java's holy land (preventing "fragmentation" etc), like this lawsuit is defending me as potential mobile developer. I believe that this lawsuit is hurting developers in general and me in particular, and benefit to the society Android will make now and in the future is significant, but I do understand Oracle has right to do what they are doing.

  11. Chief,

    Although this is not necessarily the case, let's please not readily dismiss the idea that avoiding potential fragmentation might be exactly what Oracle cares about as well - not to mention altering the course of Andriod to be more compatible is likely to benefit Java developers regardless of what Oracle's motives are...

    On a strictly side note, there is little doubt you are a very smart guy. If you can stand the personal incursion of some unsolicited advise from a random stranger, I really think you could help with great constructive discussions on TSS with broad ramifications if you would tone it down just a tad (like making broad swaths of a major corporation with stewardship of Java being wholesale "evil" because they do not agree with open source dogma) :-). Please take the suggestion for what it is worth :-).

    Cheers,

    Reza

  12. "like making broad swaths of a major corporation with stewardship of Java being wholesale "evil" because they do not agree with open source dogma"

    My posts were solely referring to Java ME, Java SE/EE is so far doing very good, I have no objections in that department. Things are not black and white, and I don't recall me saying entire Oracle is bad, but rather that this specific move is bad. There is a difference. And please let's not readily dismiss the idea that corporations sometimes make bad moves.

  13. Chief,

    OK, no problems - thanks for clarifying.

    Slightly off topic, but honestly if I do see something that I think Oracle is doing unequivocally wrong, I'll first try to see if I can talk to someone at Oracle (granted I'm in the painfully tiny minority of people who can actually make such an attempt in any meaningful fashion). If I really see a serious intractable problem, I'll try to correct it as publicly as I can while trying to remain constructive (as I've always strived to do).

    Seriously though, so far everything has been pretty good with Oracle's actions despite some predictable and short-term unavoidable problems. And in this I'm counting Oracle's honest contributions to Java/standardization that I've seen first-hand...

    Now all that being said, I often observe that less than constructive behaviour/thought is sometimes rooted in a sense of helplessness or frustration. Perhaps it is useful to note that consumer sentiment channeled constructively is a powerful force even the most mercenary corporations do pay attention to? It's important to remember though, corporations are made up of people. Few people respond well to threats, bad-mouthing and intimidation tactics. Just my two cents and not nevessarily directed at you personally :-).

    Kindest regards,

    Reza

  14. I had trouble deciding if you were the Glenn Beck or the Rush Limbaugh of Java, but when I read your stuff in a Glenn Beck voice it matches perfectly. Despite being corrected hundreds of times in forums posts you still spew out massive truds of disinformation.

    Apache Harmony - Open Source attempt. Destroyed by Sun.

    JavaMe - (terrible) Open spec, but protected by copyright laws so Sun/Oracle can charge licensing fees and subject participants to a a disasterous, bloated, inefficient burearcratic nightmare of certification nonsense.

    So, when you say there is "no reason" why an open source version of Java ME could not be developed I have to assume you have purposefully dismissed all of the evidence to the contrary and continue to maintain a baseless argument that has been shot down thousands of times because you are being paid to do so. Please stop it.

     

    Java ME is an open standard defined by the JCP. Although it doesn't currently exist, there is no reason why an open source version of Java ME could not be developed, just as there are open source implementations of Java EE and Java ME. It is very true that there is a lot of room for improvement for Java ME. I would go so far as to say it is a model that should be re-engineered from the ground-up.

    Open source is neither good nor evil by itself but simply a developement model (and a very effective one that most companies embrace to various degrees) that some people attach more political rhetoric than is really necessary...

    Cheers,

    Reza

  15. Nobody is paying me to say any of this and suggesting so is very innacurate/inappropriate and borders on outright slander.

    Frankly, this debates makes it clear why open source zealots really fail to appreciate the core strengths of Java. The main value proposition for Java comes from preserving compatibility and portability. While the open source development model has many strengths, it does not guarantee either. In fact, the risk with Andriod is that it threatens both frivolously. Instead, Google could work with the Java standards process to improve mobile Java in favor in creating it's own walled garden (FYI, Google has made no efforts towards this end).

    The up-shot would be that Java developers can develop portable mobile applications that runs on a majority of phones as is today and in the future.

    The other major strengths that come from having an open standard is that it is possible to have a healthy hybrid ecosystem that is not simple a monoculture of open source or proprietary software.

    As to the cost associated with Java licensing, it does not exist since Harmony was granted a Java license free-of-charge. I can tell you first hand that the mechanics of Java licensing is not that cumbersome - the technical challenge is...

    Cheers,

    Reza

  16. "The main value proposition for Java comes from preserving compatibility and portability...the risk with Andriod is that it threatens both frivolously"

    This is not correct, and I shall quote again:

    "Dalvik does not license Java, does not use Java trademarks, does not claim to be Java compatible,
    and does not have to comply with Java compliance testing, or the terms of Java licensing. This is very different from Microsoft and J++ in which Microsoft broke Java licensing terms by licensing Java, and then trying to embrace and extend Java into a non-compatible form (which broke the terms of licensing)."

  17. Chief,

    Thanks for repeating the points. Please note my response above.

    Cheers,

    Reza

  18. I had trouble deciding if you were the Glenn Beck or the Rush Limbaugh of Java, but when I read your stuff in a Glenn Beck voice it matches perfectly. Despite being corrected hundreds of times in forums posts you still spew out massive truds of disinformation.

    Apache Harmony - Open Source attempt. Destroyed by Sun.

    JavaMe - (terrible) Open spec, but protected by copyright laws so Sun/Oracle can charge licensing fees and subject participants to a a disasterous, bloated, inefficient burearcratic nightmare of certification nonsense.

    So, when you say there is "no reason" why an open source version of Java ME could not be developed I have to assume you have purposefully dismissed all of the evidence to the contrary and continue to maintain a baseless argument that has been shot down thousands of times because you are being paid to do so. Please stop it.

     

    Java ME is an open standard defined by the JCP. Although it doesn't currently exist, there is no reason why an open source version of Java ME could not be developed, just as there are open source implementations of Java EE and Java ME. It is very true that there is a lot of room for improvement for Java ME. I would go so far as to say it is a model that should be re-engineered from the ground-up.

    Open source is neither good nor evil by itself but simply a developement model (and a very effective one that most companies embrace to various degrees) that some people attach more political rhetoric than is really necessary...

    Cheers,

    Reza

    Without getting into details, I went to my one and only EC meeting a 2 years or so ago, and from what I understood Java ME is mired in IP issues that not only prevent it from being open source, but also, stopped progression of the next version of Java ME right in its tracks.  This was awhile ago, so I don't know if things have changed.  I think this is pretty much why Google went the Andriod track I think, then again, they are into reinventing everything themselves anyways...All those "smart" people over there need to be able to do something with their 20% requirement to create and "innovate".

  19. On a complete side note, it's always been my impression that the most egregriuos flames on TSS come from users who are do not use their real names on-line? I wonder if with the new website it would be prudent to encourage people to use their real names as well as making it possible to have open email address towards better personal accountability?

    Just a thought...

    Cheers,

    Reza

  20. On a complete side note, it's always been my impression that the most egregriuos flames on TSS come from users who are do not use their real names on-line? I wonder if with the new website it would be prudent to encourage people to use their real names as well as making it possible to have open email address towards better personal accountability?

    Just a thought...

    Cheers,

    Reza

    Hey, I don't think there's anything wrong with using a pseudonym... ;)  But, you already know that ;)

  21. Flames and Names[ Go to top ]

    Indeed, real names make a significant difference.

    JavaRanch requires everyone to have a real name, just for that reason. People tend to be more 'nice' if their real name is attached to the posts they make. It's a good policy. Perhaps we should steal that idea, like we were Google stealing patented ideas from Oracle.

    Reza is one of the more prolific posters on here, and he demonstrates great enthusiasm for Java, something the platform needs these days. How that tends to be fodder for flamethrowers, I'll never know.

    Oh, and about pseudonyms and "Cheif Thrall." I did a background check, and that's not a pseudonym. That's his real name!

    Thrall, it seems most of the posts here were of a argumentative yet well-spirited nature. I wonder if Reza wasn't referring more to the post by D.S. as opposed to any of yours or Bill's. The D.S. post was unnecessarily harsh in its verbiage.

  22. Flames and Names[ Go to top ]

    Cameron,

    You are correct and thanks for the kind words!! Indeed, one of my motivations for being active online is an ttempt to bring about more balance and professionalism into these discussions. Whether I have succeeded in that effort, is of course an open question :-).

    Cheers,

    Reza

  23. Isn't that nice Reza, isn't that nice. Flagging once again posts that disagree with your opinion as flames and demanding more accountability. Isn't the flame when you call someone zealot, or irrational just like you did flag anyone oppsing your point of view? You have to understand that there are people reading this web site who ain't gonna buy what you trying to sell here.

  24. Chief,

    I really think you should calm down or have someone else you trust read your posts and give you constrcuctive feedback. The trouble is that painting open source as "good" and everyting else including software licensing as "evil" isn't the World's most well-balanced veiwpoints to have...

    And this is coming from someone that spends large portions of his life contributing to community, open source and open standards :-).

    Cheers,

    Reza

  25. Reza, first of all you don't have to worry if I should calm down or not. You have engaged in multiple generalizations during recent discussions (irrational, zealots, flames), and since I invest alot of time to present my point of view, having you generalize postings, my included, as flames, I feel disrespected regarding my effort and time.

    "most well-balanced veiwpoints to have"

    I never said all non open source software is bad, so please don't put words in my mount, because I do not easily generalize things. I was pointing out that in this specific case Android provides more value to economy/society as is.

     

     

  26. Chief,

    I think this has come far enough but let me remind you of the sentence that you started this thread with "of all the mobile platforms out there Android is the *least evil because its entire stack is open source*". And this is after a rather long string of statements in similar vein that I won't make a list of...

    There is nothing wrong with admitting when you make a mistake - everyone does that but it takes a strong willed individual to do it.

    Kindest regards,

    Reza

  27. I don't want to turn this into word game, but I did not say ALL non open source software is bad, and I did not say ALL open source software is good, as you have implied I did. I stay behind my statement that Android is the least evil mobile platform, and by saying the least I admitted that there are some wrong things with Android as well since things are never black and white, and also it implies that there are some good things coming from other platforms too. If you do not see the difference I was making, then there is no point to play these word games any more, and for the rest of the discussion you have my blessing to flag me as "all open source is good, and all proprietary is bad", since that is not relevant to talk at hand.

    The only thing that I have flagged that entirely sucks are patents, and this point of view has nothing to do with Oracle since it is not Oracle specific issue. ALL software patents should perish.

    By being open source and actually technically advanced platform, Android is the least evil of them all. If you would like to hear what are some of the aspects where Android's open source nature will positively impact global economy, I will gladly explain.

  28. Much Ado about nothing[ Go to top ]

    Ignoring all the flame bait. What does oracle gain by killing Java by squashing open source? The answer is nothing, since they benefit greatly from it. Open source has a significant part in their products.

    This is just a pissing match between google and oracle. Java isn't in any danger and neither is android. once all the dust is settled, thing will keep moving as it has. Saying something is evil is a good joke and I've used that phrase for fun, but seriously corporations aren't good or evil. You can't expect a business to behave like a moral person, since it's not a person!

  29. Much Ado about nothing[ Go to top ]

    "Open source has a significant part in their products."

    Not in mobile market since until now they could sit and collect license fees without having to actually innovate or do anything, and iPhone and Android have changed the rules of the game.

  30. Much Ado about nothing[ Go to top ]

    "Open source has a significant part in their products."

    Not in mobile market since until now they could sit and collect license fees without having to actually innovate or do anything, and iPhone and Android have changed the rules of the game.

     

    for the record I own an iPhone. I have several friends with android phones and it's a decent copy. whether something is open source or not has zero meaning to me for a smart phone. All I care about is having a good phone that does what I want. I'm not an open source zeolot, even if i do contribute to open source projects and have a few OSS projects.

    A decade back I used to work on mobile platforms and software. Today's smart phone is way beyond what anyone made back in 1999. Open source has very little to do with innovation in smart phones in my bias opinion. It was the iPhone that changed the game and led the way. Whether they stay dominant is anyone's guess. Clearly, qualcomm, nokia, sony, motorola, microsoft and htc all could have been the first to create a compelling platform. Google copied iphone and created android to make money. Excuse the digression.

    I'm willing to bet android could have been successful even if it didn't use open source development approach.

  31. Much Ado about nothing[ Go to top ]

    I believe we agree in spirit, I just wanted to emphasize that both consumers and developers have benefited from Android, either directly or indirectly now and in the future.

  32. Much Ado about nothing[ Go to top ]

    I believe we agree in spirit, I just wanted to emphasize that both consumers and developers have benefited from Android, either directly or indirectly now and in the future.

     

    Agree 1000%. Having competition keeps people on their toes. If someone didn't copy iPhone, the rate of improvement "probably" wouldn't be at the same rate. With android pushing things, Apple has extra incentive to keep improving their platform. In the end, the user wins.

  33. Much Ado about nothing[ Go to top ]

    In general terms I agree and would even agree in Andriod's case if they just had called the language on Andriod something else like G# to keep things on the straight and narrow.

    I think Java could use real competition from a Java-like language that is "pure" open source and not backed by licenses, copyrigthts or standards.

    Cheers,

    Reza