Reasons for Root: Report

Not quite three weeks ago, I made a request in this column for “reasons for root” — business arguments why a device manufacturer should be willing, perhaps even interested, to allow replacement firmware and/or root access on their devices. That post received a number of comments, as did a tweet and a thread on the [android-discuss] Google Group.

I then culled those ideas, along with my own, into a report. I passed a draft by a few people, got more feedback, and incorporated those changes as well. You can view the full seven-page report here.

I divided up the arguments into two groups: reasons that benefit Android as a whole against competing platforms, and reasons that benefit one Android device manufacturer in competition with other such manufacturers. Helping Android overall is a “rising tides lifts all boats” approach to helping any given manufacturer. However, given that firms like HTC and Motorola are competing on Android devices as much as collaborating on the OS itself, we needed some arguments there as well.

Three reasons came to light for how replaceable firmware helps Android as a whole:

  • It should increase the number of developers skilled in Android firmware, and those developers are key for everything from implementing features to customizing Android for specific enterprises or other bulk customers
  • It should reduce concerns about upgrade paths that put Android at a disadvantage compared to iPhone
  • It helps Android stay ahead of, or at least on par with, platforms competing on openness, such as Symbian and Meego

For helping a specific Android device manufacturer, the report outlines:

  • Just because a device manufacturer came up with one use for a product does not mean there are no other uses that might drive sales, as is seen in “hackable” products like the Linksys WRT64GL router
  • Many technology leaders like Android for its openness and will tend to like open devices more than closed ones — getting them to back your device can help with promotion
  • Getting more firmware developers working on Android — per the first bullet point in this post — gives you a bigger pool of potential hires or contractors, and having some with specific knowledge of your own devices makes them that much more useful
  • If Android and other open platforms represent another step on a trend line from completely closed to the current semi-open state, one way to exploit that trend is to get in front of it

Obviously, this report does not include every possible argument, specifically trying to stay away from emotional or ethical points and sticking to business and financial ones. I am sure there are more ideas and arguments to be made, so I expect this report to be a “living document”, republished periodically, gaining strength each time.

Feel free to read and distribute the report, and send me your additional ideas, as comments here, or via posts on the [cw-android] Google Group.

  • While I haven't read the report yet, but will when I get some more time, I thought I would have a short say. When it comes to "Rooting" I am all for it because users should have full access to their phone. Although when it comes to ROM's, this is where I teeter on Neutral/Against It. As a developer I have the issue of dealing with fragmentation and ROM's that are not compatible with my app. I have had one specific issue that actually affects use of the app with a certain ROM, which I won't name, and I would have loved to work with the ROM developer to correct the issue, but I couldn't because said developer is completely unreachable and does not advertise any support address. So all I ask is that when using a ROM, the woman can still get pregnant, I mean don't expect everything to work and then blame me when it doesn't.

  • I believe everyone wants more and more from his/her smartphone and rooting is one way in which you can get the most of your phone… remember.. impatience is the word of the new millenium where youth wants as much as possible and "rooting" is just that
    .. be it about upgrades, ROMS, etc etc .

    • Mark Murphy

      That, however, is not a business reason for offering it.

      • Bob Bobson

        Isn't it rather sad that giving the customer what they want is not a valid business reason anymore?

        • Mark Murphy

          Well, I should have phrased that differently — there is inadequate evidence that there are enough people fitting Kapil Malani's description to warrant special treatment. Tens of thousands have used Cyanogen and similar ROMs..on an install base of millions of devices.

          Now, if you can find a way to increase demand for modded ROMs (e.g., to hundreds of thousands of users), then device manufacturers will be more prone to consider customer demand to be a valid business reason. Until that time, though, modding will be considered a fringe activity. Hence, for the moment, I am seeking and incorporating ideas that justify supporting that activity *despite* a lack of direct customer benefit.

  • Android has already a great demand in the market now,it's specially the main competitor of Apple's i Phone.

  • thank you for sharing. nice post. i like it :p

  • It is a useful article to read. The discussion on reporting is very interesting and helpful. The discussion highlights the reasons for root reporting. Thanks for the information.

  • users need full access to their phones. I’m not sure though if this will end up being profitable for companies. Obviously, limiting access tends to be more profitable

  • It is interesting to go through the reasons of root report. I appreciate your admission about this report which does not include every possible argument, specifically trying to stay away from emotional or ethical points and sticking to business and financial ones. Thanks.