Trying to Unring a Bell

There’s a rather big stink right now concerning an interview we conducted with Mr. Orion a few weeks ago. Here’s a quick recap of what happened for any of you who hasn’t seen the backlash. We did an article here on AndroidGuys around a month back and Jake left a comment with something to the effect of “Hey, here’s who I am and what I do. If you ever want to speak with me and get some Sprint info, you have my email address.” I took him to task and immediately emailed him and asked whether or not he would be interested in doing a Q&A with us. We were curious to see what was going on in the Sprint side of the world in regards to Android. Unfortunately, we’re only a few months away from Android’s release and we know very little about what the Open Handset Alliance carriers will be doing.

I asked Jake whether or not he’d prefer an email interview as opposed to a Skype or phone call interview. My findings are that historically people prefer that way so that they have more time to think things through and can put together their answers more cohesively. Believe it or not, he opted for email. Those answers were checked and edited before we published. I’m not going to quote any of the article here as I told him that I will not be using any of his answers on the site. I have no doubts that Jake is very enthusiastic about Android and its potential. After speaking with him a few times, I can share that he loves the platform and he “truly believe(s) we have something special here. ” Maybe it’s because I know his intentions a little bit more than others, but I didn’t read his answers to be overly critical. Looking back now, I can see where a lot of people would though.

So what happened? I believe it’s a combination of things. Do I think he was the wrong guy to be talking about it. Yes and no. Every company the size of Sprint has a PR department for handling discussions and talking points. Jake is nowhere near that segment as his focus is on actually creating the devices, not talking about them. On the other hand, who better to talk about the platform than the team working directly on it?

Would Sprint have given us some more “safe” answers if we were able to speak wwith a PR guy? Of course, but that’s what everybody does. When you have 34 companies all working together towards a common goal, they have to make sure not to anger one another. You have to talk nice about your new friends. Everything gets spun so much, it’s hard to get down to the truth.

I don’t think Jake meant to come across like Android won’t end up living up to the hype. He has to make sure as to not to lean too far in one direction as he’d risk angering the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile part of Sprint. How bad would it be if he came out and said, “Yeah! This is going to kill WinMo!” He tried to walk the thin line, but ended up stepping off in both directions. Sadly, when stepping off in one, that’s when the Android watchers are ready to swoop in.

I wonder who put the squeeze on who in this situation. I could picture two different scenarios. In one, someone within Sprint walks into Jake’s office and says, “Hey man, we have people here who get paid to talk about our stuff. You, on the other hand, work on our stuff. Leave the talking to us.” In the other scenario, I could see someone from a Google office picking up a phone and dialing Sprint, telling the other end “Someone wanna shut that guy up? He’s ruining a big thing of ours.”

Google is going to blow the doors off of the industry and turn carriers into dumb pipes for delivering data. Maybe Sprint saw what Apple did to AT&T and is somewhat hesitant. I have to believe that even the carriers involved in the OHA aren’t ready for the next wave. Let’s assume that Android is so open that Sprint could brand the device around their services, with links, shortcuts, buttons and more to access their television and location-based services. That same openness could allow for a customer to uninstall their apps and put in programs that link to less expensive, or free, offerings. Would you want to pay for 411 calls when you can push a button for GOOG-411 instead? Would you rather use the free Google Talk application or pay for text messaging from your carrier?

I have to believe that there are some insiders who know more about the platform than we’re being told. I, as well as the other AndroidGuys members, are trying to be as objective as possible about things. We feel our readers deserve to know things whether good or bad. I’d like to offer Jake, Sprint, or any other member in the Open Handset Alliance the opportunity to speak out. I can personally guarantee your confidentiality, if that’s a concern. If someone out there knows more to this story, please let me know.

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  1. I’m overly disappointed that the interview got taken down because in my honest opinion it was the best AndroidGuys interview yet

  2. After reading the interview, I felt he (Sprint) was really excited about working on the android platform.

    Android is getting some pretty bad press right now. But its too bad that none of the OHA members come forward & say something about what is going on, what is the roadmap. Even worse, if someone tries to share something, they find ways to shut him up.


  3. That interview was the biggest thing Androidguys was able to secure in the past few months…

    But I understand why is was removed; it totally blew up the hype about Android. The head of the Sprint dev team was frankly saying Android wasn’t way ahead of any of its competitors, and in “many” aspects, its competitors are way ahead. What?!

    He made Android look like “just another mobile OS”. Not only that, but behind in many features. This is really BAD. But I mean what sort of positive hype has Google been actively propagating? NONE. So they had that one coming.

  4. To tell u the truth, I’m no longer excited about Android, as much as I am excited about the fact HTC is cooking a fast, large touchscreen, sliding qwerty device to compete with the iPhone. I don’t give a crap about the large spectrum of dishwashers, low-end phones, toothpicks and sofas that Android will be running.

  5. Honestly TareX, I’m pretty much tired of hoping & waiting too. It seems like an eternity since last November & forever before we see an android phone, let alone an army of devices!

    With so much secrecy, behind the scene action, cuffed hands & gagged mouths, android better be that much touted iPhone killer. Google, I Dare You!!

  6. You caved to carrier censorship and I must say I am very disappointed. You even deleted our comments ( The interview is still cached on Google’s servers, so I know they didn’t do this ). My confidence in this blog, which started out with so much potential, has been eroded, weaken. At this early stage in the game, you’re already on the fast track to being just some lap dog of the carriers – discouraging.

    Mr. Webster, you need to go ahead choose what side you are on, the integrity of this blog is at stake. Censorship isn’t in the spirit of Open Source. Why should I spend anytime here at all if my comments are going to be deleted because they make some crooked executive at Sprint nervous? Can I look forward to more blog posts being deleted cause a different carrier executive called you?

    Its your blog, and you may do with it what you choose. Are you part of the Rebel Alliance or just another Galactic Empire Storm Trooper?

  7. Todd – You’ve been one of our most prominent visitors, leaving comments almost daily. I hope you’d understand that what I did was a personal decision, not a blog committee vote thing. I was contacted by Jake, and Jake alone. Nobody else from any part of Sprint or the OHA has spoken to us.

    I was asked to remove the comments that pertained to the article. There was no cease and desist order, no corporate email, etc. You are not privy to some of the details, and to be honest, this is not the place for them.

    In the future, I will make sure that before I “go to press” with an article, the subjects or interviewee understands the ramifications more clearly. I don’t think he expected us to get him the traction it did. We were picked up by ValleyWag, The Washington Post, Silicon Alley Insider, TechMeme, etc. Our audience is not quite as small or niche as he might have thought.

    I will not put this blog above someone’s job. Take that for what you will. I need to make sure that I can sleep peacefully at night with my decisions. I hope you can understand and appreciate that.

  8. Take it easy guys. This was an awesome interview, very interesting points but it’s not like the Sprint guy revealed any secret or anything, but he was talking about the athmosphere from within a carrier that is working hard to implement Android and launch products before Christmas.

    “Google is going to blow the doors off of the industry and turn carriers into dumb pipes for delivering data.”

    I think that is exactly the most interesting point here. But the Sprint guy seemed to point out that the actual Android solutions that are going to be launched could be very much under the control of the carriers. If a carrier wants to implement a walled garden approach for voice and messages using Android, Google makes it totally possible for them.

    In fact that is how Android works, it can be 100% open, as well as it can be totally under the control of the carrier or/and the phone manufacturer. If a carrier wants to block VOIP apps (such as Skype and SIP), I’m sure they will be able to package and set Application filtering policies in such a way to block any such apps, and if a carrier wants to block IM, limit to SMS, or control the IM client in some way (perhaps showing targetted ads), then I’m sure they could do it.

    There are many places in the Android OS that the carrier may want to implement a kind of a walled garden approach, not stopping people from installing powerful third party Android applications as long as those applications do not intervene with the carriers and the phone manufacturers planned revenue models. There is also Content, how will people watch videos on the device? How will people listen to music on the device? I am sure some carriers will want to control that. Targetted ads delivery would probably also be something that the carrier could want to control, there is huge potential revenue streams in that.

    Google is probably right now working on making all these solutions to satisfy all types of carriers that want to implement Android, there would be carriers that want walled gardens for now, such as the ones in the US market (known for it’s ultra-walled gardens) and then there might be more liberal carriers in Europe and Asia which might be content with totally trying it out at being basic data terminals and leaving full freedom to the consumers.

    I think Google’s plan with Android, is the deploy a trojan horse in the mobile phone service provider market. There will be clear demand from consumers to be free to do as they wish with their phone. If people want Skype, SIP, IM, Youtube, IPTV and DivX on their phones, then carriers will have to deliver on those wishes, which will have to turn out at being designing business models that give customers 100% control on their hardware.

    But still Google can balance it for carriers, so they can still make significant revenue from content and advertising, in the same way the Mozilla Foundation makes millions of dollars with their share of Google ads people see with the Firefox browser and in the same way Youtube Adsense publishers make a share of the revenue from video ads using Youtube content. Google knows the IP address of mobile phone users and thus Google can provide a revenue share of content and advertising revenue to the carrier totally automatically, without having to build any walled garden in any of the mechanisms of the phone. The carrier can approach Skype to make the same kind of agreement in case people install Skype on their phone and the carrier can start providing top quality SIP based VOIP services and install it by default and hope customers will use that.

  9. The carrier could be working right now on approaching CBS to make a revenue-sharing deal on shipping the phone with a implementation that gives full on-demand and webradio access to millions of songs from all music artists.

    Will the carrier block a content or advertising based service that doesn’t provide a satisfactory revenue-sharing deal for the carrier?

    In the case that the carrier becomes a data-centric service provider, what should be a fair price per gygabyte of bandwidth used? I am hoping that the carriers can provide 1GB for $1 or something like that. The phone could come with a bandwidth counter in the status bar, which would show exactly how much traffic is consumed. A pre-paid or subscription based deal for bandwidth would be nice. I wouldn’t mind that bandwidth fees were charged dynamically as an auction, depending on the available bandwidth at any single place. If you are in a stadium and that hundreds of people try to stream the same videom, the bandwidth cost could automatically increase thus giving people the choice to watch the streaming video in lower bandwidth qualities to save on their bandwidth costs at that time.

    A device that automatically switches from HSDPA or WiMax to WiFi when there is a WiFi hotspot in range, that could be a great way to save bandwidth resources, but perhaps some carriers will not want that feature enabled in the OS or in the hardware. Especially in the US, there has been precedents of certain Nokia phones such as the E61 which have gotten their WiFi capabilities stripped cause the US carrier did not want people making free VOIP calls on WiFi.

  10. @Charbax

    “…Android [ can be ] 100% open, as well as it can be totally under the control of the carrier or/and the phone manufacturer.”

    If what you say is the case and Google intends to fork Android, they need to say as much immediately. Such a deceptive practice is in violation of the spirit of the Apache license, not to mention of evil and hostile it is to the developers work on blind faith.

    There have been plenty of nasty forking incidences in the past, if Android is to be the latest, Google needs to be up front about it, so all the developers and hobbyists can abandon the platform now and switch to LiMo or OpenMoko.

  11. “Forking is considered a Bad Thing—not merely because it implies a lot of wasted effort in the future, but because forks tend to be accompanied by a great deal of strife and acrimony between the successor groups over issues of legitimacy, succession, and design direction. There is serious social pressure against forking. As a result, major forks are rare enough that they are remembered individually in hacker folklore…

    …It is easy to declare a fork, but can require considerable effort to continue independent development and support. As such, forks without adequate resources can soon become inactive, e.g., GoneME, a fork of GNOME by a former developer, which was soon discontinued despite attracting some publicity.

    In free software, forks often result from a schism over different goals or personality clashes. In a fork, both parties assume nearly identical code bases but typically only the larger group, or that containing the original architect, will retain the full original name and its associated user community. Thus there is a reputation penalty associated with forking. The relationship between the different teams can be cordial, very bitter or none to speak of.”

    More forking horror stories here:

  12. @ Todd (comment 12),

    Google has always been upfront that the carriers can take Android and do with it as they please – make it as open or closed as possible. They have also always said that anybody can take Android and modify it as they please, WITHOUT giving anything back to the original source. This is PRECISELY why they are releasing it under Apache license. Contrary to what you say, this is not a violation of hte spirit of the Apache license. Please check this:

    From Wikipedia: “The Apache License (versions 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0) requires preservation of the copyright notice and disclaimer, but it is not a copyleft license — it allows use of the source code for the development of free and open source software as well as proprietary software.”

    Further down in Wikipedia: “Like any free-software license, the Apache License allows the user of the software the freedom to use the software for any purpose, to distribute it, to modify it, and to distribute modified versions of the software.

    “The Apache License does not require modified versions of the software to be distributed using the same license nor even that it be distributed as free/open-source software. The Apache license only requires that a notice is kept informing recipients that Apache licensed code has been used. Thus, in contrast to copyleft licenses, recipients of modified versions of Apache licensed code do not necessarily also get the above freedoms.”

  13. Orion’s interview was not only the best interview on AndroidGuys, it is one of the best interviews I have come across with telecom management. Orion was not typical management – he seemed to be more of an engineer. That was why the interview was awesome. He tried to be subtle and circumspect without lying or giving empty soundbites which everybody knows is just fluff.

    I have no love at all for the jerks who gave him a hard time for interview. I think he must have gotten a lot of flak from his own management. Crap from Google, if any, must have been comparatively lesser. Reason for my thinking: his interview admitted a lot more about carrier-shenanigans than it put down Android. In fact, Orion had an engineer’s no-nonsense attitude towards Android: optimistic enthusiasm tempered by honest realization of the current limitations of the platform.

    I totally support Scott’s decision to remove the interview. We owed it to Orion to remove it. Not to the carriers or any other usual villains. This is not about censorship. This is simply about being a gentleman towards another gentleman.

  14. If Android puts the power with the carriers, then -correct me if I’m wrong- this is the actual OPPOSITE of putting the power with the consumers and developers.

    So the carriers may not like a certain feature (e.g. VOIP) so now they can strip it off just from the start? I sure hope nothing of this sort is true.

  15. If carriers can modify android & cripple some functions, is it not possible for users to remove that OS & install Google’s version of the android 1.0 (unmodified); Coz it is open source & source code is available right?

    With so many hackers around, I think it should be possible…

    Can somebody with experience in this clear my doubt?

  16. GreenLeaf,

    At this point it is becoming increasingly obvious that Android is not going to be free software in the GPL mode. The only way that carriers are going to have the ability to control what happens with handsets on their network is to restrict updating of firmware on the device. They will probably take the same approach that Apple has in tying the firmware to a DRM scheme that locks the firmware to the hardware with an encryption key.

    It is also likely that any applications will be similarly restricted, again just like Apple’s App Store. Without that kind of control, developers will just work around the restrictions with applications and patches.

    At the beginning, I had high hopes that Google had the power and inclination to force the carriers into opening up their networks but given recent news, it is increasingly unlikely to happen in the US. It is possible that Google has written off the US market as intransigent and are going to focus on the rest of the world market.

  17. TareX,

    Of course it is true. How do you think Google has gotten carriers on board? The answer. By telling them that they are still in full control. Any other approach would have been impossible to pitch.

    The whole situation was a giant catch twenty two for Google. They chose the evil that would still allow the platform to exist. You can’t really fault them.


    Despite the knowledgeable sounding statements by James Bailey I have high hopes in this regard. Although I am not an expert, I have consistently seen supposedly unbreakable security get bypassed. Maybe I am just an optimist…

    Personally, I will get a phone with Android from T-Mobile. They are the least restrictive US carrier, and hopefully will leave the default system mostly intact.

  18. Heres a sham. Guy writes the best article yet on Android, tells the truth, and people knife him on every word they don’t like . Ridiculous! Honestly means you say the pros and cons.

    Its obvious this guy knows ten times more than we all do. Please have mercy on us and come back. Can’t stand to read boring PR hype and BS sensationalism. PLEASE

  19. Three days across the border. Back and I missed all the fun :( Looking for Q&A II and got this :( :( :(

    Scott, way agree man, you handled this extremely well! The enemy here is the one we are not seeing. Glad you have class. PR people are spin doctors. Oh yeah. those jokers who grabbed a few select lines and blew them up were sell out moles and users. Let them be spammed to death !

    For fun, I reread the answers but ignored anything saying less than perfect things about Android. When you read it this way the material is lame and biased. Its those exact words which bring balance and fairness. So with my respect to you bro, would like to suggest one counter opinion to your comments. I say the author succeeded (not failed) on both fronts. He showed integrity and fairness, exactly what angers both sides. Anything less would have been impossible and messed up the soup. Cooler still, the text shows the titan forces and how they compete and influence one another. Guess its no surprise how complex this all really is.

    I am a coder, but this was my favorite article too. It had broad vision and yet acute awareness of how the business works. Was like a Yoda lesson. Simple questions were turned into worldly matters. I felt the power of the force!

    Scott, don’t turn to the dark side ! Stay on target, stay on target

  20. I am not a hacker, but I think that an unhackable software/hardware combo is possible to make. At least to make it really hard to hack, eigther through soldering a modchip on the board electronics of the actual machine (and a modchip may not fit into the case of such a compact device), When people jailbreak into devices such as the iPhone using softmods, I think it must have been because of blatant software mistakes or that those holes are sometimes put there on purpose. I don’t think Google and its carrier partners aren’t going to make any software mistakes, and jailbreaking and unlocking communities would never represent more then 1% of the users anyways.

    I think Google has clearly said that their purpose with Google Android is to release a trojan horse in the mobile phone market. Some carriers will implement a very closed version of Android with VOIP and IM locked out, as well as walled gardens for wireless content streaming. But Google’s plan is that there is always going to be one Open implementation of Android in each market, there will always be one incumbent carrier or wireless network provider that will release an Android based product that will be more open then the others. And Google’s plan is that people will demand to have that open version of Android. When people see the possibilities of unrestricted VOIP and IM, and unrestricted content streaming features, people will demand that, and finally all carriers will accept to change their business models, base it on data services and content distrubution partnerships to provide people with open devices.

    Linus Torvalds was against GPL3 I think for this reason. Commercial companies should always be able to use Linux implementations in proprietary and closed ways if that is how they prefer to use it or if that is how they think they can make the most amount of money. The thinking is that even though some companies decide to close down their own implementations of Linux, in the end the benefits do always come back to the open source communities and the benefits of using Linux be it open or close always is clearly present to the users.

  21. A S is right on every account.

    Been in the wireless Telecom business for 7 years and got it linked to me. Gave it to my boss who is positive few in the industry could have written it. Without the article I would not be here.

    A S is also right about the article. Sprint made an most impressive article boiling with character and energy. Those execs at Google should not be shutting people up while telling the public they are all about openess. There is no secret and it has a lot of great things to say about Android’s future. Stopping this material is heinous conglomerate s–t.

    Now that I am here, let me help. Android is open source so by definition anyone can do what they want with it. Lets please stop pretending Google has a higher calling and represents us. Those who believe it is not about making money are being scammed.

  22. Android is only a marginal improvement over the current CDC/Foundation Profile, which is largely a complete JDK 1.4 for the device. Android does introduce a neat GUI framework and lifecycle management, but again nothing ground breaking here. If Google had announced Android as proprietary technology, the announcement would have been uninteresting, as many vendors already deliver similar solutions. I think it is very difficult to justify Android as a killer technology.

    For me Android has always been about an open community and ecosystem, which we haven’t had before. An open mobile ecosystem is exciting. Google flubbing their openness strategy puts Android back into the uninteresting category.

    From a carrier’s perspective, the vendors take care of all these GUI/lifecycle details, so Android is just one of many solutions, albeit a cheaper one.

  23. With Android, Google is trying to dominate the mobile internet scene. I believe in them. However, without at least flash support, I don’t think Android will be a hit in that department.

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