Report: Android is open source but Google's apps have to be licensed

Google has hyped up the fact that its Android operating system is open source software, meaning that in theory anyone could use it for their own device. The reality, however, is a bit more complicated than that, according to newly revealed documents that show Google has a number of requirements and licenses for Android OEMs.

The documents, which show the license terms between Google and two Android device makers (Samsung and HTC) are from January 2011 but were posted this week by Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman. They show that OEMs who want access to apps like Google Play and Google Maps must sign a "Mobile Application Distribution Agreement". It also insists devices include other Google apps like Gmail, Google+ and more. Google Search must also be the default search engine under this agreement.

Even the placement of Google's apps on the home screen of a smartphone is controlled by this contract. It states, "Google Phone-top Search and the Android Market Client icon must be placed at least on the panel immediately adjacent to the Default Home Screen."

Of course, device makers can still use Android as the OS for their products without signing this agreement. Amazon uses a highly modified version of Android for its Kindle Fire tablets that uses its own app store, rather than Google Play.

Source: Benjamin Edelman via Ars Technica

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Android is going in a similar direction of Mac OS X. Mac OS X = the proprietary graphical 'layer' of the OS that runs on top of mostly open source software (i.e., 'Darwin', Apple's BSD implementation).

this is for morons who tell microsoft to fork android or bring android simulator to Windows. you will never get google apps so stay classy and improve your homegrown services.

You lot should read the source article. This is news because recently new info from 2011 (it's not even fresh) emerged about the licensing scheme between Google and OEMs. While we all knew this was true, the only information we had was from 2009.

Squirrelington said,
This is the reason why the Google Apps are not packaged with CyanogenMod and you have to separately download 'GApps'.

Didn't CyanogenMod recently sign up for GMS?

yup, they are going to build two different roms, if you want to call it that. One that complies to google standards, ie removing root from install and a few other odds and ends which could ship on phones (they already have with the oppo n1) and the custom rom community edition. But as many in the scene have murmured i believe CM will go fully compliant with google sooner or later and drop the community "rom"

how on earth is this front page news, its nothing new and i cant believe you said "A recently revealed document" this is not recent and has been like this the entire time android has been out.

Come on, is this news? The reality is NOT that complicated OS is open source, Google services are licensed. What's so complicated about it?

This is hardly groundbreaking news, and it's still a damn sight less restrictive than the terms on the Windows, WP, and iOS stores.

Something like this is exactly what MS should try and do, they have the same core apps + all the ones they're now going to get by buying Nokia plus the stuff they're licensing like HERE maps etc

Just give the OS out for free bust have a small fee for all the extra stuff people would normally get only with a Lumia in the past. It's another option to consider in the end, or just give it all away for free and go for the volume play.

If by 'what MS should do' you mean make it open...no thanks. I don't want OEMs screwing up Windows. But if you mean just give the OS away for free...then totally agree with that. In fact, that is what MS basically did w/ IBM back in the day, which is how Windows got it's dominant position on PCs. I don't understand why they don't do it now.

greensabath said,
If by 'what MS should do' you mean make it open...no thanks. I don't want OEMs screwing up Windows. But if you mean just give the OS away for free...then totally agree with that. In fact, that is what MS basically did w/ IBM back in the day, which is how Windows got it's dominant position on PCs. I don't understand why they don't do it now.

I mean give the OS away to OEMs for free and maybe charge a fee for all the extra apps and services that are currently exclusive to Nokia. Otherwise the OEMs can just put in their own competing apps.

George P said,

I mean give the OS away to OEMs for free and maybe charge a fee for all the extra apps and services that are currently exclusive to Nokia. Otherwise the OEMs can just put in their own competing apps.

well - all the apps that are nokia will be charged at Microsoft anyways. do you think nokia can now live from love?

greensabath said,
If by 'what MS should do' you mean make it open...no thanks. I don't want OEMs screwing up Windows. But if you mean just give the OS away for free...then totally agree with that. In fact, that is what MS basically did w/ IBM back in the day, which is how Windows got it's dominant position on PCs. I don't understand why they don't do it now.

No, that's not how it happened. Microsoft didn't sell or "give away" DOS to IBM, they did something far more important that enabled them to become what they are today: they licensed it and retained the right to license it to anyone else they wished.

As the IBM PC took off and IBM PC clones started to appear, the ability for other OEMs to simply license an already existing operating system in MS-DOS, rather than produce their own, enabled the PC-era to really explode, and with it, Microsoft.

of course. Open is gimmick. if it was open it was doomed to fail. simply because people would have copied it and google would have left with nothing but some leechers using their services.

-Razorfold said,
Because it's John Callaham. And also because this article would bring in a billion comments, netting him a nice amount of money.

Yeah, some 'journalists' find news stories worth reporting on and bring them to the masses, others lie awake at night and try to "create" news or click bait, while providing no benefit to the reader...

A shame really.

Neowin is really doing downhill. It's not just Callaham either. There are a few "writers" on here who are shameless in how they twist the story to generate comments (see the HP firmware one as an example).

I used to love Neowin but it certainly has become an elitist Microsoft fanboy site in the last few years. Mention anything at all that is negative about Microsoft, even saying you don't care for Windows 8, will get you torn to shreds by their members. lol and try asking a question. they flip out from paranoia and claim you're trolling. they're faggity site is back up now anyway. back to reading the girls comments...

haha their fanboy is ghacks.net xD

mrmomoman said,
Umm how is this news? It's been known for a LONG time now..

I didnt know it was confirmed, I thought they were rumors. I welcome such insightful articles.

You're right. Although some of the details contained in the court documents have been rumoured or suspected they've been officially secret until now. Others come as a complete surprise. For instance, it wasn't known that a licensed OEM was banned from producing devices that don't include all the Google bits or that licensed OEMs were banned from using a search provider other than Google throughout the OS. The documents confirm how tightly Google is controlling Android and how much of the code is closed source.

Actually everything that you mentioned was already known and is pretty common knowledge. It's pretty much the reason why the Amazon kindle is the way it is. It's also brought up every single time when someone mentions how Android is completely open and you can do whatever what you want with it.

There's nothing newsworthy about this article at all.

True, but many of the APIs is AOSP have been left to rot while they have been expanded, replaced and so on as the Google Play APIs. If you want to make a custom smartphone based on ASOP that can allow all Android apps to run on it, you'd need to reverse engineer and provide your own drop in APIs to replace them, which is no small feat.

Ars calls Android "Unforkable: http://arstechnica.com/informa...ork-android-its-unforkable/

Sraf said,

Well Amazon proves it's forkable. However, it also proves that if you want the full Android experience, you'll need GMS.

I think it's a good thing actually. If there's tons of forks out there, app compatibility would be a nightmare for developers. There's nothing stopping projects like CyanogenMod or pure AOSP devices from existing.

techbeck said,
This is very well known.

Agreed - there are tonnes of Android tablets and phones but it doesn't mean that they have access to the Google play store or any of the Google goodies that are available through their licensing programme.