Google Responds [CYANOGATE ’09]

android_dev_logoYou know something’s a pretty big deal when Google feels obligated to respond to a situation.  Such is the case with the recent situation going down between the Android team and Cyanogen.  Today sees Dan Morrill dropping by the official Developer blog to weigh in on the confusion surrounding what is considered Google, Android, and/or open source.  Although they never mention the specific modifications, everybody knows who they are referring to.

With a high-quality open platform in hand, we then returned to our goal of making our services available on users’ phones. That’s why we developed Android apps for many of our services like YouTube, Gmail, Google Voice, and so on. These apps are Google’s way of benefiting from Android in the same way that any other developer can, but the apps are not part of the Android platform itself. We make some of these apps available to users of any Android-powered device via Android Market, and others are pre-installed on some phones through business deals. Either way, these apps aren’t open source, and that’s why they aren’t included in the Android source code repository. Unauthorized distribution of this software harms us just like it would any other business, even if it’s done with the best of intentions. – Excerpted from Developers Blog

So there you go – the actual apps are not part of Android, even if they are pre-installed on some phones.  They are standalone Google properties and may or may not come loaded on handsets.  Distributing them without authorization is what this is all about.

Sounds like you can do whatever you want with the source code repository as long as you aren’t baking your own (or Google’s) additives in as well.  Hopefull this clears things up a bit for those who are saying that “Android is not open source after all.”

How lovely if the scenario ends up playing out like this?

Google: Hey dude, you gotta stop with the mods that have our apps included.

Cyanogen: Ok, I can stop including your apps but I am still going to keep on putting out my own builds using your repository

Google: That’s cool.  By the way… we were wondering if you might be interested in helping us out and getting paid for it.

Android fans around the world: Wow!  Android just keeps getting better!

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In addition to smartphones and mobile gadgets, Scott has a deep appreciation for film, music, and sunflower seeds. A husband and father, he likes spending down time riding his mountain bike or binge-watching TV. Scott has overseen the day-to-day activities of AndroidGuys since 2007.
  • That would be a lovely scenario. Unfortunately, Cyanogen himself is not sounding too optimistic right now on Twitter: "Sorry everyone, CyanogenMod in it's current state is done. … Unfortunately, I feel this is a chilling effect for the entire Android community, since what we are doing is now considered illegal." He also says that such basic stuff as contact sync and the Google setup wizard are off limits.

    I'm sure this isn't the last word, but it's sounding more dire.

  • google is being a douche bag

  • Guest

    I understand the legal aspects. However I am not sure what Google will achieve by doing this. I think it would be more sensible to help him figure out how to use the Google applications with his ROM than to serve him notice.

  • Bernal

    Based on what Cyanogen is saying on Twitter, it looks as if Google is saying, yeah we like what you and others are doing while in reality they are saying, "screw you", you'll never be able to produce anything useful without our stuff and we won't let you or the end-users do anything that would make your stuff even marginally useful.

    Google's move is like they're inviting us to a free showing of a 3D movie but not giving out the 3D glasses and not letting anyone bring their own either.

    I'm seriously rethinking my pre-ordered Hero and whether or not I want to get mixed up in this as a user and new app developer. Perhaps I should just go back to WinMo.

    • Loren

      Yeah, go back to WinMo… Not! Are you kidding? You enjoy must also like hitting yourself in the groin with a hammer.

  • your shut down, BTW thanks for the idea on running BFS great stuff LOLZ!1!!!

  • Brahmson

    The app market does not include some of these google applications (i.e. Gmail, Google Talk) so if they are not distributed with the modified rom the user will end up with a significantly inferior phone, practically defeating the reason for an alternate rom (and google can close the few remaining workaroud to get these apps).

    So legal issues aside, it appears that Google is trying to control the market and the user experience in the very same way Apple does.

    This opens the door for for Apple to go back to the FCC and say that they are not controlling the iPhone market more than Google does the Android app market. Google may have been penny wise and pound foolish. They thought they shot Cyanogen, buy may have shot themselves in the foot.

    • Cliff Rowley

      The difference being of course that Apple also maintains a good standard of applications in its market. Google does not. To me, this translates from our original idea of "freedom vs apple" to "inferiority vs apple".

      • Cliff Rowley

        To clarify: prior to this event I was happy to sacrifice overall quality for freedom to have at what is essentially my handheld computer with various flavours of OS. I can still do that of course, but unfortunately the Google apps make up a fair proportion of the good applications available, and without them I've lost the incentive to even bother.

      • Brahmson

        In practicality Google now controls the Android market. If you go down the list of apps they close-sourced you will see that the barrier to entry into the market is too high for an open community to penetrate. Core components like "Market", "Sync" and others are just few examples.

        The question is not the licensing rights they may have but the overall control they exert on the market. On the face of it one might think that Apple has the legal right to control the iPhone market. Not that simple. Both Apple and Google can do so as long as the FCC does not decide that it has a chilling effect on the market. You can disagree with the FCC's right to interfere, but that's another matter (the use of regulated airwaves gives the regulator some unusual powers).

        Google just gave Apple a big argument to defent their rejection of Google voice.

        And if this community of Android fans brings this issue up, Google may realize that it is in their own best LEGAL interests to back off. Other valuable arguments do not impress lawyers. Lawyers only understand legal arguments and once this issue is brought up to their attention they have a fiduciary obligation to inform Google of the exposure with the FCC case.

    • Nick

      This isn't the same thing at all. Google isn't deciding what you can or can't have on the Market, they are just not putting a few of their own apps on the Market. All this is, is an issue of pre-installed software not available elsewhere. How is that similar to what Apple is doing at all? It's their own software that they are distributing via other means (licensing with specific vendors), they aren't preventing you from creating replacements for it. There are already Market replacements (such as, IM replacements (meebo), etc… Someone can create replacements for all of Google's apps and they wouldn't stop you. It sucks and makes custom ROMs more difficult to produce, but it's still not impossible and we just need to figure out a good way around it.

    • All proprietary apps that ship with Google Experience Phones have alternatives. If you do not like those alternatives, because you feel those alternatives are inferior, work to make the alternatives better.

  • CompactDstrxion

    I don't think you realise that Google have just KILLED all currently-running community-run Android-improvement projects!

  • Anon

    problem is … this is Capitalist world, Consumers are the bitches, they do deserve to get spanking whenever the master need be. So all the consumers, who are "shouting" for the "Rights" and "Freedome" wake.up. and smell the brand new world! 🙂 Sorry to burst your "Freedom Bubble" but thats how things work in today's world specifically Corporate World. If someone hurting some big giants banking efforts, then "SCREW YOU" notice usually served them with Silver Palate

  • TG

    “but the apps are not part of the Android platform itself”

    Understood. However, thus far they’ve been delivered on every Android phone (including my G1, AKA the HTC Dream, AKA the Google Phone with the Google logo on the back) released thus far. If I do a factory re-set on the phone (my phone), they’re baked in and come back. For free.

    “We make some of these apps available to users of any Android-powered device via Android Market, and others are pre-installed on some phones through business deals”

    Ok, so Google won’t be pre-installing the apps on some phones? The apps that provide the user with a direct channel and almost seamless integration into Google services? I know Google strives not to be evil, but it’s not a charity either. Why distribute and promote Android at all if not to get more users to admire your lovely contextual advertising?

    Any business deal where you’re submitting to the demands of a hardware manufacturer or (worse) a carrier is probably a bad one. Apple does both with the iPhone, and throws in a hacker-unfriendly ethic to boot.

    “Either way, these apps aren’t open source, and that’s why they aren’t included in the Android source code repository.”

    Again, understood. I don’t think Cyanogen is modifying those apps or has any reason to do so . All he’s done is make improvements to the open-source portion code.

    How about this, Google? Help Cyanogen incorporate something that allows a check if the phone hardware is the kind that originally shipped with the apps in question. If yes, capture and move them (or unlock them in the mod distro). If no, no apps for you.

    Or better yet, hire the guy who’s helped me extend the life of my phone, and allowed me to impress and evangelise about the benefits of Android. Two people I know have already bought Android phones (one of whom opened a gmail account to use it) after checking out my Cyanogen-powered device, where the performance default t-mobile software didn’t impress anyone.

    • "Ok, so Google won't be pre-installing the apps on some phones?"

      The Archos 5 Android Internet Tablet, for example, does not ship with the full suite of Google apps. Archos worked off the open source tree, AFAICT, and, again AFAICT, has no business relationship with Google.

      "I don't think Cyanogen is modifying those apps or has any reason to do so."

      By that logic, Linux distros should ship Oracle database software, because they are not "modifying [Oracle] or [have] any reason to do so", and some Windows users migrating to Linux might already have Oracle licenses. Oracle might have a slight dispute on that concept.

      Had Cyanogen worked out some means of a personal ROM build — one that blended a pure open source stock ROM with copies of the user's own copies of the proprietary apps/drivers pulled off their devices — there may well be less of an issue here.

  • glyco

    If you're posting here, make sure you also send an email to google to let them know how you feel.

  • Jeremy

    Why is this surprising anyone? This has been their stance from day one, they just hadn't gotten the lawyers involved till now. That's why the phones we have are "with Google". And yes, some phones ARE coming out sans Google apps.

  • Matt

    Androidguys: you've been making a big deal about clarifying why Google sent the C&D, but you're missing the point. It doesn't matter why. What matters is that G1 users had a way to make their phones USABLE. I think that if I'd had to go another few months with the stock Android, I would have abandoned the platform entirely. It is Google's issue that they picked such a weak platform on which to release their baby. The consumer has to live with it. And if the rumors are true and they plan to abandon updates for the G1 only a year after its release, well that's just more evidence of the poor choice of hardware, and Cyanogen was going to be our only protection against that.

    Seriously, Google. The G1 is a piece of crap without Cyanogen. It is completely unusable IMO.

  • webreaper

    I think all of you guys throwing your toys out of the pram here are missing the point.

    Just because Google distributes these apps with the ROMs on the handsets, this does not have any bearing on whether they're freely distributable. Google bakes these ROMs for distribution in conjunction with the handset manufacturers, and they licence the apps from Google. The components to which Google is referring in this C&D are no more copyright-free than the HTC SenseUI components, the Motoblur stuff coming out soon, nor Microsoft's IE. Just because the developer of an app allows it to be distributed widely does not mean it does not retain the rights to that app.

    Cyanogen has two choices here: he can either bake ROMs built soley on the freely-distributable, open-source components, or he can do the other thing. And as for him joining Android, I'm sure that if he did, people would cry foul, accusing Google of stifling independent ROM production.

    Stop throwing your toys out of the pram and acting like freetards, and consider the actual legalities of the situation. Google owns the rights to these apps, and so is requesting that Cyanogen stops distributing them without permission. There's nothing unreasonable about that.

    • aamp

      The point here is that Android OS is 'marketed' as a Google OS with Google services attached. People have been buying these devices expecting the same experience as the G1 etc. Then they find that Google hasn't allowed the manufacturer to install the Google software on the device and there's no way of (legally) acquiring that software either.

      Left in the lurch…as it were.

      There's no point in Android without a proper app store, and by 'proper', I mean a central repository for LOTS of apps. So that would be the Google Marketplace then, except you can't go there on a HTC Hero!!

  • coldbrew

    This is a disappointing issue for someone like me anticipating an Android-based device at some point, esp. one without GSM or CDMA radios (WiFi+BT only).

    Brahmson: Please go look up or search your memory for what FCC stands for as it looks like you are overlooking it completely. Hint: It is NOT, Free Communist Club. AT&T has the same issue understanding why the FCC exists. AT&T was given special license to the US citizen’s assets (i.e. the airwaves) and this license is not unconditional. Google has no such license.

    If the iPhone did not have a GSM radio, the FCC would have never involved itself with the drama surrounding Google Voice in ITAS.

  • Ano Nr

    (Sorry for my bad English)

    Isn't it if you change your default phone system (mod/root it), you actually voided the warranty?
    Let's say you got a HTC Hero with HTC Sense in it, then you changed it to Cyanogen ROM, then the HTC Support people will have no clue how to help in case something is wrong with the OS, right? Thus, the warrany is gone, and the 'business deal' is off. If so, by changing the default OS into a modded one means the owner of the phone have no 'extra stuff' because the deal is off, and the license to Google Apps is also gone.

    Is my thinking correct? Or did I miss something else?

  • A S

    We understand the legality of this issue. But we don't understand the spirit of this issue – this is not Googley behavior on Google's part. Instead of cease & desist, why doesn't Google give Cyanogen the license to distribute their apps? It's not like he is modifying anything in the apps themselves. Wouldn't it only help Google more if Cyanogen includes their apps in his distro?

    • exactly!!

    • Google presumably uses those apps as a means of extracting something of value out of handset manufacturers and carriers, whether that be money or guaranteed promotional efforts or meeting certain hardware specs. Giving those apps away eliminates that.

  • I understand about GMail, Google Maps or whatever, but making the Market a closed software which cant be embedded on custom ROM is the same than saying "Ok guys, we made Android open because linux license says that it must be open, but then we closed the market so its not useful without our approval".

    I'd like to see an open variant of the market software and how google responds to that. This is really bad news.

    • There are many open Android markets. AndAppStore, SlideME, and so on.

  • TareX

    I understand both stands, and have a solution:

    – Google: Companies pay money to get Google's apps, and it's not right to have these apps available for free for other companies which didn't pay for them.

    – Cyanogen: It's useless to post a rom without Google's apps.

    My solution: Find a way to have Cyanogen release patches (sans Google apps) that replace original Android code but retain the apps on the "with Google" phones.

    Or, just let him work in peace. What is the percentage of modders anyway from the total Android consumer population??? Most people don't even know that you can install apps on the phone…

  • Some carriers are likely to not load the Android Market the phone, choosing instead to have their own app store. Many feel like this would something Verizon would do. This is where it gets tricky – the apps properties of Google. Android is just the delivery method.

    Android is open source. The Google apps are not. It's up to carriers and handset makers to work out what gets loaded. Unfortunately, as cool as Cyanogen is and regardless of his intentions, he can't distribute those apps.

  • Brian Fistler

    I agree completely that Google has the right, even the responsibility to control their closed-source software to prevent misuse of their applications and brand name.

    What concerns me a **LOT** however, is the fact that not all of these applications (from what I have read) are available for download/installation apart from the “official” ROM.

    Who wants an Android phone without the ability to watch flash/youtube, (OK, maybe some, youtube isn’t exactly my first jump when I’m on the web, but I want the ABILITY to do so.) gmail, maps, latitude, app store etc. These closed source (although free) applications are what adds most of the “value” to the Android platform, at least at the moment. If/when open source equivalents of these become available, I would certainly support them by installing and using them.

    The REAL problem, as I see it, is that since these applications are apparently NOT available as separate end-user installable applications, is that it is possible that when a telco produces a “custom ROM” for their network, if they don’t want users having access to youtube, video, latitude, maps etc, and they remove these apps from their custom ROM builds that they push out over the air, we (Android users) will not have the ability to install these applications. This frightens me more than you can imagine.

    I am already with a cellular provider (US Cellular) that deactivates built-in features (namely GPS) in their phones so they can “sell it back to you”, and have been just sitting around, waiting for a year now (almost 18 months out of contract on my 3 1/2 year old blackberry) for *any* carrier that serves my area (absolutely NO GSM coverage here) to get an Android phone, *any* Android phone on the market, so I can get the h33l off of US Cellular with my 4 phones and my nearly $4000/year i spend with them.

    I’ve been counting down the days since the announcement of the arrival of the Hero on the Sprint network, and now I’m having to re-think my decision in light of the new information I have learned about the non-availability of the Google closed-source applications for Android. I don’t know if I would have any reason to NEED to install a custom ROM on the Hero, but I want the ABILITY to do so, should I want/need to do so to get the features/performance I want/need on my phone.

    Unfortunately, the only viable alternative (The Nokia N900/maemo, or it’s equivalent) I’m sure will be years away from any kind of a release on a CDMA network.

    The aspect of “freedom” is *way* more important to me than “free”.

    Google needs to “free” their applications to be installable by anyone by making them available to be installed freely on Android regardless of the carrier, phone model, or underlying ROM that the end user is running. They can easily do this in a couple of way, and still keep full control over the software.

    1. They can license the apps to Cyanogen to be included in the Cyanogen ROM builds.
    2. They can make the apps downloadable by the end user by accepting the EULA. (Even if they feel they need to charge for them. If I don’t want a given app, I don’t buy it, if I want gmail, I’d be willing to pay for it, even if they *are* “giving away” the same app for winmo, crapple, bb, pre)

    Either way the end users win, and Google wins by both keeping control of their proprietary software and by keeping interest alive in their Android platform.

    I’ve seen “studies” and such that the end-user doesn’t care what operating system is running on their phones, it’s the “experience” that matters. Maybe, maybe not, but I’ll bet you that at *this point* there is a highly disproportionate number of adopters of Android based phones who absolutely DO care. Once the market if finally flooded on all networks with lots of Android based phones, and “Joe six-pack” starts to gobble up the phones for it’s “user experience” it will be a different story, but if Google “kills their baby” before that can happen by alienating end users and developers, we may never know.

    Am I going to avoid getting an Android phone next month from Sprint because of this, I honestly do not know. I have been waiting for 2 years to get my hands on an Android phone, I can wait a little longer if necessary. I might wait and see where this goes, what final stance Google takes with Cyanogen. These kinds of issues have a way of sorting themselves out quickly, if the resolution is going to end up being “good” for the end user, and dragging themselves out for a LONG time when the end result is going to be bad. I am hoping that this issue can be worked out very quickly, and to the benefit of all involved.

  • carig

    i'm not buying this theory of "google's going to give cyanogen a job", not that he doesn't seem to be qualified but companies generally seem to be wary about setting the precedent that infringing on their copyrights will get you a job

    also, i understand that google actually has to do this. If they don't, anyone could start giving away (or selling) google's apps and there's nothing they could do about it because they didn't stop it this time

    that said there seems to me to be two very simple solutions to this problem that – if possible – would allow either side to solve this problem:

    first, google should distribute their apps outside of them coming with the phone, this seems easy and they could charge for it so that they wouldn't be losing money

    second, cyanogen and other modders could (maybe?) figure out a way to load custom roms without deleting the applications that are on the device, eliminating the need to add them in the roms, i dunno if this is actually possible

    • google doesn't HAVE to charge for the apps to make money – they make money as a byproduct of the public USING their apps – they sell advertising, they sell users browsing habits and search terms and analytics

      and they sell apps in their market

      which ppl are drawn to because they "like" google – but that is coming into question now!

      also.. google doesn't HAVE to issue this cease-and-desist order to protect their branding or copyright or whatever — i understand there are scores of WinMo custom ROMs out there and MS isn't whining about it

      so….. why does google "have to"??

      • carig

        ok, well my point was that they can't allow cyanogen to distribute their closed apps because they could lose their copyrights, i'm pretty sure that is completely true and i don't think you're saying they should be ok with losing their copyrights

        i dunno if they have to charge for their apps or not but it sounds like they make at least some of their android money off of business deals with manufacturers of android handsets to pre-load the google apps and i'm guessing they aren't willing to just give that money up

        i don't think they need to give a cease and desist order for the ROM itself, i think the article states that the cease and desist is only for the apps and i'm pretty sure closed apps owned by google are completely different than custon WinMo Roms

  • Marcelo L

    I call BULL-Chips on both goog and androidguys ( I don't think Cyanogen took things QUITE THAT nonchalantly when he first received the C&D, and frankly I haven't read anything in goog's blog or anything else they've published that even remotely sounds how this article portrayed them.

    I know you guys are a fan-site, but have you completely sold ? C'mon.

    I don't buy it that if you're part of the OHA, that you necessarily have to pay for maps, gmail, etc. I call bunk on that too. At this point goog is still not at 800lb gorilla stage in the mobile handset. They got cred, they've got some spotlight, but not that Intel's supposedly going to start developing Moblin reference platform handsets ? Hello ? Fragmentation, baby. Opening up is the "reasonable" recourse they have. I understand goog wants to protect it's stuff, or feels that it needs to. But frankly, I was ready to jump off WinMo to Android, and now….you know what…maybe I will tough it out. At least with WinMo, I know that if someone creates a clean stock build from dev drops, I have alternatives.

  • I f*cked Scott Webster.

  • These jokers. I come to hear about Android and see all of the wonderful advertisements being posistioned to me. I do not come to hear about exploits. MOD

  • Lol what a handful of turds. I personally oversee product development for the in house software division of a fortune 500 company, and would love to have Cyan on my team. Google shot it all over their own hands, IMO. Here’s to you, Cyan.

  • Oh what a mess.

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