Is Android open? Yes, Only 23%

Android operating system which stormed the mobile scene in 2007 has took the world by surprise and caught quite a few napping. With more than half a million Android powered devices activated everyday and having the top market share across the world, Android is Apple’s nemesis.

Steve Jobs even wanted to go thermonuclear on Android because it was ripping off iOS’s feature. More than the rip-off it was Android’s success Steve Jobs was worried about. After all, everything is a rip-off. The only real question is whether it was better or worse than the original. So what’s the main reason for Android’s phenomenal success? It’s open and it’s free.

Whatever free is left of Android, Microsoft has been skimming it. It muscled through the top Android manufacturers and made them pay royalties. That leaves us with Android’s openness. Is Android really open? May be. A data driven answer is Android is 23% open.

In the Open Governance Index analzyed and published by Vision Mobile, Android stood at the bottom of the top 8 open source projects. Eclipse, Qt, Linux, Mozilla, Webkit, Meego and Symbian were the other 7 open source projects. Next year same time, WebOS might be added to the list but that’s another story.

Eclipse by far the most open source project scoring well on all the four parameters measured – Governance, Development, Derivatives, and Community.

Why did Android score so low? For starters, Android is still Google’s baby and Google wants to keep it that way. The source code isn’t immediately available and the contributions from open source community are rarely commited to the main code base maintained by Google. In other words, Android isn’t open like Eclipse but it isn’t closed like iOS.

And now to the paradox of 2011 : Android is the most closed open source project.

 

Despite being semi-closed and controlling, Android is still having its own problems. Though the derivates are not allowed to use Google’s own services, derivatives like Amazon’s Kindle Fire OS and the one Facebook might come up with are posing enormous challenges to Android’s long-term stability.

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