Android News

Android and Symbian trade barbs about openness

February 25, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka

Android, Open Handset Alliance

Android and Symbian trade barbs about openness

Android had its second major detractor of the week after Symbian Foundation director Lee Williams questioned Android’s openness. Williams said, “Android is not open. It’s a marketing label. It’s controlled by Google. It’s a pretty label but I don’t think the use of Linux is synonymous with open and they may have made that mistake of assuming it is.”

Naturally, Google VP Rich Miner fired back that Symbian is actually the un-open, open platform. Using the classic, “Oh, yeah, well you’re worse” debate technique, Miner pointed out that the Symbian source code isn’t available to non-members of its Symbian Foundation that requires $1,500 annual fees, which effectively pushes out many individual developers.

Both Android and Symbian have some stipulations that aren’t in the best interest of “open,” but it seems counterproductive for the two companies to takeout measuring sticks to see which is more open than the other. Maybe they could use a refresher course on what is open-source.

According to the Open Source Initiative, an open source project meets the following criteria.

  1. There should be no intentional secrets, which ensures that flaws can be fixed appropriately
  2. The standard must be freely and publicly available under royalty free terms at reasonable and non-discriminatory cost
  3. All patents essential to use must be royalty-free
  4. There must be no requirements that conform use
  5. There must not be any essential technology that fails to meet the criteria of the open standards.

Are you happy Google and Symbian? Neither one of you has been 100% faithful to the definition, but what does that matter? Google’s Android follows the basic premise of open source by making the code available within reasonable means and allowing modifications of that code. There’s definitely room for improvement, but considering the restrictions Symbian has in place, glass houses, stones, and something about throwing. You know the phrase, Mr. Williams, so be mindful of it.