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Google Delays General Release of Honeycomb Source 262

Posted by timothy
from the hey-that-doesn't-feel-right dept.
iluvcapra writes "BusinessWeek reports that Google will not be releasing the source code for Android Honeycomb 'for the foreseeable future.' Android lead Andy Rubin is quoted, stating that if Google were to release the source for Honeycomb, Google would be unable to prevent it from being installed on mobile phones and 'creating a really bad user experience.'"
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Google Delays General Release of Honeycomb Source

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  • So Android 3.0 ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @06:37PM (#35605744)
    So Android 3.0 isn't exactly 'open source' for the foreseeable future?
    • by ArcRiley (737114)

      Or at least until one of the copyright holders for the GPL source code they're using sends them a cease and desist order.

      Much of the Android source is under a permissive or academic license, but they are required to provide the source code to the copyleft parts.

      • by Microlith (54737)

        Which is the kernel, and only the kernel. Which is usually published as a tarball on some obscure page.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Which is the kernel, and only the kernel. Which is usually published as a tarball on some obscure page.

          And Google has made much less than its best effort to merge their Android-specific hacks back into Linux mainline, which makes them not much better than a number of other fly by night OEMs relying on Linux to make their dreams come true. Even when playing with the community properly would help advance their own interests.

      • by Goaway (82658)

        The GPL requires you to provide the source to people who you've distributed the compiled program to.

        Who have Google distributed the compiled program too?

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Anybody who buys a tablet. Of course, the obligation is not on Google, but whoever sold them the tablet.

          And as others have stated only GPL'ed code on the tablet need be disclosed.

        • by dudpixel (1429789)

          well, you only have to "make it available"...which means you probably can download the source to the android kernel...but Google dont publicize its location...and I guess they dont have to...

          but it would be nice if they embraced the ideals of the kernel and not just its benefits...

          • by Eric Smith (4379) <eric@brouTWAINhaha.com minus author> on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:58AM (#35608426) Homepage Journal

            well, you only have to "make it available"

            You have to do more than "make it available". Since it is being commercially distributed, and isn't accompanied with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, they need to satisfy section 3b of the GPLv2:

            b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange;

            Can anyone who has a Xoom confirm whether it came with such a written offer?

            As others have pointed out, this only applies to any GPL'd components of the software, which includes the Linux kernel but little else.

    • From TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2011 @06:44PM (#35605832)

      Over the past few weeks, Google has notified device makers of its change in plans with Honeycomb. Android executives have also been telling companies that Google will likely wait to make another open-source distribution of Android software until it completes the next version, called Ice Cream.

      So unlike what the summary suggests, and more in line with the title, it really is a delay, not an indefinite cutoff.

      • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @07:28PM (#35606384)

        Yeah, the OSS platform will always be one version behind the version they give to their top-tier partners, thus Motorola and Samsung get a head start selling the best devices, and then vendors who Google doesn't license Ice Cream to are stuck selling last year's commodity, in a market that is by then saturated.

        Pretty cool, huh? Almost as if Google has created a perpetual motion machine that allows them to release their platform as open software, while simultaneously maintaining the power to decide which handset vendors will thrive.

        • Re:From TFA (Score:5, Informative)

          by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Thursday March 24, 2011 @07:56PM (#35606680)

          Yeah, the OSS platform will always be one version behind the version they give to their top-tier partners, thus Motorola and Samsung get a head start selling the best devices, and then vendors who Google doesn't license Ice Cream to are stuck selling last year's commodity, in a market that is by then saturated.

          Pretty cool, huh? Almost as if Google has created a perpetual motion machine that allows them to release their platform as open software, while simultaneously maintaining the power to decide which handset vendors will thrive.

          There are two projects called Android. One is Android, which is distributed to all OHA partners. And since you have to be an OHA partner anyhow to get the "with Google" stuff (e.g,, Market, YouTube, Gmail, etc.), all the OHA members can get access to Honeycomb right now.

          The other Android project is AOSP, which is the open-source version fo Android and distributed to the world. If you're not a member of the OHA (requirements include being sponsored by an OHA member, and some annual fee), you can only use AOSP. This is the rise of the cheap handsets and tablets that don't ship with the Google stuff (lots of handsets in China are built using AOSP and officially don't have "with Google", plus a lot of the cheap tablets you can find).

          I think this policy came about because the OHA members were complaining they had to compete with the cheap tablets out there.

          The other downside of this, that will bite the OHA's members in the ass is that silicon venders like Broadcom, TI, Marvell, Freescale, etc., rely on AOSP to provide Android packages so they can test their chips with Android. If they can't access the latest and greatest, then the chips that OHA members use may not have the Android support they need. Note that I excluded Samsung, and Qualcomm because they are OHA members.

          • by iluvcapra (782887)

            I think this policy came about because the OHA members were complaining they had to compete with the cheap tablets out there.

            Exactly: Oh no, they had to COMPETE! The OHA is a cartel, they compete where they want to compete, mainly in securing the most lucrative marketing and subsidy agreements with networks, splitting the rents in the system. In the areas they don't want to compete, they use open source to crush the competition, plain and simple.

            • by exomondo (1725132)

              I think this policy came about because the OHA members were complaining they had to compete with the cheap tablets out there.

              Exactly: Oh no, they had to COMPETE! The OHA is a cartel, they compete where they want to compete, mainly in securing the most lucrative marketing and subsidy agreements with networks, splitting the rents in the system. In the areas they don't want to compete, they use open source to crush the competition, plain and simple.

              I wouldn't be taking that as gospel - particularly with no basis - given that it stands to reason that Google wouldn't want to tarnish their name and reputation by having 'with Google' on sub-par devices. Which is an entirely logical and business-conscious reason for such a decision.

              • by kdemetter (965669)

                I wouldn't be taking that as gospel - particularly with no basis - given that it stands to reason that Google wouldn't want to tarnish their name and reputation by having 'with Google' on sub-par devices. Which is an entirely logical and business-conscious reason for such a decision.

                And also a good excuse for continuing with the GP mentioned.
                It's a kind of monopoly , no matter how you dress it.

                And regarding the 'creating a bad user experience' , due to 'sub-par' devices , I'll decide that for myself , thank you very much : i don't need anyone to 'protect' me from 'bad user experience'

        • by quenda (644621)

          Pretty cool, huh? Almost as if Google has created a perpetual motion machine

          Don't worry, one day they will release their "Vista", and nobody will be fussed about upgrading to the latest any time soon.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by StikyPad (445176)

      Wrong, wrong, wrong.

      "To make our schedule to ship the tablet, we made some design tradeoffs," says Andy Rubin, vice-president for engineering at Google and head of its Android group. "We didn't want to think about what it would take for the same software to run on phones. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable. So we took a shortcut."

      "Android is an open-source project," he adds. "We have not changed our strategy."

      The "foreseeable

      • by shaitand (626655)

        Basically everyone who bought a 2.2 tablet with 3.0 capable hardware is fsck'd.

      • by Si (9816)

        Well, what really sucks is that Google used to be a champion of "we'll ship it when it's ready", and now they are bound (apparently) by the same "we'll ship it when the schedule determines, regardless of quality" rule as everyone else.

    • Parts of HoneyComb (Linux Kernel) is GPL'ed and is already available. Other bits that are not, they're free to do what they please.

  • iOS their reason? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mlts (1038732) * on Thursday March 24, 2011 @06:40PM (#35605782)

    I can see two reasons for Google being leery of a source release:

    1: The patent drama going on in the cellphone world, with almost everyone suing each other. It is like watching The Departed, except with lawyers.

    2: iOS. Google is nervous about the June iPhone release, so is hedging bets to see which way to go after the iPhone 5 comes out.

    • by shaitand (626655) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @09:06PM (#35607208) Journal

      They are doing this to give the xoom a sales boost. There are tons of tablets sold with 2.2 code using hardware that can run Honeycomb (which isn't for your phone and has nothing to do with iPhone). This is about burning everyone who bought one of those to boost the sales of tablets with 3.0. In many cases, for the same company that sold the tablet with 2.2 and wants to now sell the exact same hardware with 3.0 and a new model number.

  • by mveloso (325617) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @06:40PM (#35605790)

    mkdir android
    cd android
    repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git
    repo sync
    make

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      That's how Andy Rubin [twitter.com] sees it. Of course, Motorola got to peek at the source early for the Xoom, but they did that the old-fashioned way, with a license.

      I guess that's hypocrisy -- I wouldn't bitch about Google being hypocritical, it's a company after all and it has no beliefs to contradict. But when a single large corporation basically runs an OSS project you have to consider exactly why they release source. And the Xoom basically shows us the strategy: if you're a big corporation that can manufacturer

  • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @06:40PM (#35605792)

    This is very much in violation of the spirit of Open Source, on which Google relies for its entire existence.

    Actually, even holding back the development repository and just doing periodic code drops is a violation of community spirit at the very least, and probably harmful to the pace of ongoing development as well. It is clear that Google still does not "get" open source.

    • by surgen (1145449)

      This is very much in violation of the spirit of Open Source.

      This is lawyer speak for "they're not doing what I want, and have no obligation to". The "spirit of open source" argument is bullshit anyways, open source is more than GPL. I release under BSD, and it is against the spirit of that license when some prick repackages it under GPL but I gave up the right to complain when I slapped the BSD sticker on it.

      Basically, quit bitching.

  • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @06:40PM (#35605800) Journal

    Educate me, please. I'm not in the loop on this.

    How much of Android is GPL-licensed? Does Google have a choice? I'm pretty sure they have no choice on the kernel itself and anything GNU-derived. What portions of Android are not subject to GPL disclosures?

    • I believe most of the Android stack itself has been released GPL previously. But as the copyright holder, they can release future versions under another license. The existing GPL tools they built upon, like the kernel, have to remain GPL.

      The real issue is that they're making a poor decision. Supposedly Honeycomb has APIs for handling display on a phone as well as a tablet. Google bragged about this new column API. There may be specific aspects of the UI that need to be redesigned for a phone, but they don't

      • It's actually licensed under the Apache license, the Linux kernel excepted.

        To be honest, while it's disappointing, I'm hopeful it's a temporary thing based on what's been said thus far. Android gets much of its strength from being open source, and I'd assume Google wants that strength for its tablets too.

      • by shaitand (626655)

        Who cares about phones? What about tablets currently running 2.2 that are looking for a proper community 3.0 release?

        • If you have an older, cheap tablet with an older version of Android, Honeycomb may not work well for you. The UI is designed specifically around GPU accelerated rendering, and overall it is targeted at a fast dual-core processor.

          There are unofficial roms for Gingerbread you can get on your tablet now that would actually be faster.

          • by shaitand (626655)

            "If you have an older, cheap tablet with an older version of Android"

            People say that as if there aren't currently marketed, not cheap, fast tablets being sold with 2.2.

            Like this one:

            http://www.viewsonic.com/gtablet/spec.htm [viewsonic.com]

            Unless by not cheap you mean $500+ for $250+ worth of hardware like an iPad.

            • If the iPad was only $250 of hardware, than everyone and their mother would be putting out the same hardware at the same price.

              Putting the same type of hardware in such a small form factor isn't cheap or easy.

              The pure cost of the components in the iPad 2 is $326 dollars. Now consider the cost of research and development, the overhead of the cost of like Apple, paying Foxconn to manufacture them, marketing costs, etc. And I bet the price goes closer to $450 in cost for that $500 tablet.

              So please don't spread

          • by shaitand (626655)

            As for unofficial roms, 2.2 is completely unusable as released. The kindle app doesn't function and there is no market. The unofficial roms are the only option not merely for speed but for stability. I expected them to be only option for a 3.0 upgrade as well since the manufacturer will likely want to sell new hardware bundled with 3.0 rather than upgrading already sold tablets.

            That's why this is a bad hit. No open source release means no unofficial roms and no upgrades for 2.2 tablets.

    • See here:
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2046324&cid=35567912 [slashdot.org]

      28 components use GPL, 5 use LGPL, etc.

      But, Android is more than just those components. The glue that holds them together is not licensed under a GPL-style license. That glue is called "Android".

    • by wcoenen (1274706)

      Android is licensed under the Apache Software License 2.0. [android.com]. Only the kernel (i.e. linux) is GPL.

      Not that it matters, because the copyright holder can do whatever he wants with the code, even after he has given it to others under an open source license (like the Apache license or GPL). Accepting contributions dilutes the copyright ownership, but to deal with that contributions to Android are only accepted after a Contributor License Agreement [android.com] is signed.

  • They say: if Google were to release the source for Honeycomb, Google would be unable to prevent it from being installed on mobile phones and "and creating a really bad user experience."

    Who are they trying to protect from this bad user experience? Do they think a phone manufacturer is going to ship a honeycomb based phone that gives a really bad user experience? Would any manufacturer really do that when it's easier to use a version of Android that's already designed to run on phones??

    Or are they worried tha

    • by Microlith (54737)

      Or are they worried that some hobbyist is going to port Honeycomb to his phone and end up with a bad user experience?

      I bet they're worried that someone will port it to the Nook Color and people will go for that instead of overpriced $500+ tablets.

      • Google isn't really making money off the price of the hardware.

        And tons of people already took versions of Android that weren't ready for tablets and shipped a bunch of crappy tablets. I think Google is worried about the overall experience and perception of Android. But what Google did with the crappy tablets was disallow the use of Google Apps, including the Android Marketplace.

        For a cheap tablet, they could still ship it, because some people literally just need a browser on their tablet. I don't think Mot

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        Too late. It's already THERE...

        Nook Honeycomb "Howto"... [the-ebook-reader.com]

        I'm using it on my Nook and have the Nook app on it in this mode...along with Angry Birds, etc. Sorry, not buying that line either.

    • by naasking (94116) <naasking.gmail@com> on Thursday March 24, 2011 @07:01PM (#35606050) Homepage

      Who are they trying to protect from this bad user experience?

      The Android brand.

      • by iluvcapra (782887)

        You're right, but it's worth pointing out that this is the App Store argument. If Google may withhold source from certain hardware vendors in order to "protect" end users or the platform, to protect the platform's reputation of stability and performance, mutatis mutandis Apple is justified to withhold apps and functionality from their platform for the same reasons. If Andy Rubin thinks he's entitled to prevent people from running Honeycomb because of UX, then Jobs is completely free to make such decisions

        • by brion (1316)

          *ding ding ding*

          And of course we can expect the result of this decision to not actually be "small manufacturers don't try to stick broken Honeycomb on their off-brand handsets", but rather "small manufacturers who already don't license the Google-branded bits anyway keep putting Froyo or Gingerbread on their off-brand tablets, keeping them at least as bad as the previous generation of on-brand tablets".

    • by presidenteloco (659168) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @07:02PM (#35606068)

      Their probably afraid that the hobbyist will let a mainstream media journalist try their cool Google phone and, because the journalist doesn't understand the finer points of google recommending it not be used on phones, they write a scathing review of Google's new phone OS.

      If there's one thing I've learned in my tech career, is that customers don't understand or care who exactly in the chain of production was responsible for their problem or lousy experience. It's always you. And if you're the big name part of the equation, its DEFINITELY you.

      Saw a great sign on the side of a truck: "Joe's Natural Gardening: Where the Customer is Occasionally Right"

    • The problem google has is they don't want crap devices running honeycomb and giving it a bad name. So why not release the code, but copyright the name "honeycomb" and "android". Sell those only to platforms meeting google specs. rename the actual code base "cheap dogpoo". So some maker of crap-tablets can't dillute the honeycomb brand appeal.

      • by brion (1316)
        That's pretty much how the Android platforms works -- if you want the branding and the Google apps, you have to license it and work within additional restrictions beyond just the open-source base. That hasn't stopped LG, Samsung, and Motorola -- official paying licensees all -- from making UI customizations that a lot of people complain about, so I suspect they need to adjust their partner agreements rather than restrict the offbrand open-source redistributors.
    • by Trufagus (1803250)

      Here's an alternate theory.

      They don't want Amazon using it to build a competing tablet with very little Google on it.

      The way that Amazon is approaching their app store is pretty much an assault on Android. Creating a new app store that competes on price, features, service, etc. would be great, but Amazon is approaching competition the same way the carriers do: exclusives. So now, if you want the latest Angry Birds then you must get the Amazon app store, and if you are an Android user outside the U.S. then

      • by jrumney (197329)

        So now, if you want the latest Angry Birds then you must get the Amazon app store, and if you are an Android user outside the U.S. then you can't get it at all.

        And people wonder why Android is getting a reputation for pirated apps....

    • Do they think a phone manufacturer is going to ship a honeycomb based phone that gives a really bad user experience?

      Yes

    • I think the rationale is the same as apple's How do you force people to use your blessed API rather than calling kernel routines directly? Windows sucked for ages because people would try to get more performance by calling undocumented handles. Remember all the "terminate and stay resident" apps that would intercept the keyboard hooks as a way to multi-task themselves in a non-multi-tasking environment? Not only did the added hooks conflict but every new release of windows broke half your apps and you g

  • Isn't Google just delaying the source release until the release after Honeycomb which will combine the tablet version with the handset version? What's the big deal? If people are paranoid about running Honeycomb without seeing the source then they can wait until the next release.
  • Page 2? (Score:4, Informative)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @06:48PM (#35605890) Homepage
    Linking to page 1 [businessweek.com] of the article would probably be nice. Better yet, the print version [businessweek.com].
  • But, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @06:55PM (#35605966) Journal

    http://twitter.com/Arubin/status/27808662429 [twitter.com]

    What is the definition of "open" today, Google...?

    • the definition of open: "sign licensing agreement with google; mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make"
  • Easy fix? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hahn (101816)
    How difficult would it be for Google to put in some code to check the hardware. If it's a tablet, let it install. If not, don't. And if someone wants to remove it from the code and install it anyways, let them. It's not like they can complain about the results.
  • Well, I want give them some benefit of doubt for now that they still mean right with Android and that they will continue to keep it open enough (although the mentioned reason smells pretty fishy to me).

    But I think this is just more strong evidence that Google was caught off-guard with the success of the iPad and rushed Honeycomb to an early release in order to have something to counter Apple.

    In my mind, I think Google still was internally trying to limit Android to smaller smartphone-type devices and
    • by brion (1316)

      A rushed update can still be released without destroying the overall brand image. Google's own Chrome browser (under its 'Chromium' alternate brand) as well as Mozilla's Firefox, and the Linux kernel itself, are all developed much more openly, with warts and all exposed during the whole development and clean-up process. Chromium and Firefox even provide regular installable binary snapshots, so you can test in-development versions without compiling, and always have the source for both unreleased and ALL rele

  • 'creating a really bad user experience.'

    So far the android modding community (which is fucking awesome i might add) has done alot to improve that over stock.

  • by Daneurysm (732825) on Thursday March 24, 2011 @08:02PM (#35606736)
    It's almost comical seeing the conspiracy theories in some of these comments.

    While on one hand they are totally stretching their good will with the open source community which they benefit from, the most obvious reason is detailed in the submitters comments. Occam's razor, etc etc etc.

    As someone who spends much time hanging out on the XDA developer forums I can promise that the second that source gets released within hours every popular Android handset out there will have a ROM ready for flashing...There are rips from different model/brand/language/era/device type/etc available for deconstruction and flashing for nearly every Android device out there. Being the curious geek that I am I try nearly all of them (before going back to CM every time)...and most of them have just as wonky a user experience as can be expected.

    Seeing as how Honeycomb is intended primarily (or even exclusively) for tablets I'd imagine it's UI elements (among other things) are absolutely not going to be the best implementation available for 3-4" screens.

    While this is clearly not the best sign of good will towards the open source community, I'm sure the source will be out once something newer is out for the modders and developers to play with...Having the absolutely latest version (no matter how many points are in the version number) is like crack to some of these people. They forget all about Honeycomb with Ice Cream available...

    Seems more like a whole lot of people at Google never considered this until it was too late...hopefully this lights a fire under their asses to get Ice Cream out quicker to unify the platform.
    • by fermion (181285)
      Five years ago much of the OS X kernel tech was open source, just like Android. Much of the OS X specifics was close source, just like many Google apps for Android, and propriety additions could be made, just like Android.

      Then one day Apple decided open source and corporate goals no longer meshed. The Apple justification sounds rather similar to the Google justification. That if the code was realeased then people would put it on non-authorized hardware and the user experience would be degraded. The OS

    • Putting a new ROM on the old phone is not the only reason to want the source code. I've been waiting for them to release it because there are some parts I want to see how they've changed under Honeycomb. Now it will take a long time before I ever find out. Oh well.

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