Do Androids dream of open handsets?

Like sogrady, I have a few questions (and no answers yet) about the whole Open Handset Alliance / Android announcement.

DisclaimerDisclosure: My employer develops software for mobile and embedded devices and one of our clients, OpenMoko, has developed the worlds first 100% open mobile communication platform. And as usual these are my opinions and not those of any employers past or present.

So my questions resolve around community and governance;

Q: Is Android going to aim for a community around the code or is it simply code thrown over the wall with an Apache2 licence stuck on the crate?

Opinion: There are too many open source savvy people at Google for me to think that they are just going to throw code over the wall, even if that is how it appears atm.

Q: If it is supposed to be a community, i.e. OHA/Android are going to actively solicit outside involvement and contribution, how is that going to work? Who gets copyright? What’s the process for eventually getting SVN access.

Opinion: As I’m sure Luis would point out there are many open source projects that don’t have this clearly sorted, so in that sense Android isn’t on it’s own. However given the involvement of so many corporations you’d think this would have to be sorted, for their own sakes, up front.

Q: Since the FAQ makes great pains to point out that the Apache2 licence avoid all that ‘viral’ GPL nastiness and allow proprietary extensions of the platform, what’s to stop a handset manufacturer or carrier add a tonne of proprietary stuff to the phone which you can’t get rid of? As a 3rd party developer how is this better / more liberating than developing on top of Windows Mobile or Symbian?

Opinion: It seems to me that the whole drive here is to attract developers with the promise of an open platform. A platform where ’..application could call upon any of the phone’s core functionality such as making calls, sending text messages, or using the camera,…’ or ’… does not differentiate between the phone’s core applications and third-party applications. They can all be built to have equal access to a phone’s capabilities…’. I have nothing against the Apache licence per se, but given this is an alliance of a large number of companies, many of whom could be considered competitors, working in a very competitive market, it’s going to take an inordinate amount of discipline to not use the proprietary extension property of the Apache licence for ‘competitve advantage’, with 3rd party developers getting caught in the crossfire. I hope I’m wrong.

[So this sat in Draft mode all week, and I finally found a minute to tidy up here and there and push it out, just as the SDK is about to be released]

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