Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Google as Open Source Big Brother

While their intentions may be pure, Google can't substitute their judgement for the community's

The open source and mobile computing communities were ablaze last week with the news that Google was "delaying" the release of the Android 3.0 OS codenamed Honeycomb to the open source community. While Google seemed to make it very clear that this was only a temporary delay, the fact that they did not offer a firm time frame to put Honeycomb out as open source code has many up in arms. 

The reason Google gave for the delay was that Honecomb is really optimized for tablet computing.  Putting it on a smartphone platform would be quite a technical feat and more importantly, at least according to Google "and creating a really bad user experience. We have no idea if it will even work on phones."  So they have made the decision for the community. No Honeycomb for phones and to make that stick, they are not releasing the source code out at open source.

While I don't disagree with Googles logic of trying to preserve the user experience and make sure Honeycomb is not used on a platform it was not designed for (sort of like using earlier versions of Android on tablets, that it wasn't designed for.  But Google didn't seem to care as much about the user experience there), they can't make that decision for everyone.  Leave it to the developers and OEMs to make Honeycomb work on other platforms. If it doesn't the market will speak. 

That is what open source is about. The code is out there and let the infinite variation of software evolution go to work. The market and talent of the developer community will ultimately decide if it works or not.

Instead Google has set themselves up as "Big Brother" here and made the decision "for our own good".  This big brother approach is not going to win them any points or fans in the community, except for the big tablet makers who get a bit of a bigger head start on the market. It sets Google up as Rodrick trying to teach us what we need to get by in mobile computing middle school.

For a company that prides itself on being part of the open source community and understanding the open source way, this is just callous. It leaves themselves open to easy second guessing that they are going back on their open source support.

The fact that they didn't put up such a fight when Samsung was using older versions of Android on tablets, when it wasn't designed to do so make them come off as hypocrites.  To those that called Honeycomb a fork of Android, it only adds more fuel to the fire.

So Google you should know better. Don't play Big Brother here. Either Android is open or not. If it is open than release the code. If it is not going to be open, say so. But have faith in the community and the market to understand if someone uses the code to put out a product that is now up to the standards we have come to expect.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10