16 Comments

Summary:

The hoopla around Google’s Android mobile OS, and the resulting apps in the Android Market, is pretty strong. It’s laid on thick and fast. You know the drill; it’s “open” so it’ll be free from all the constraints imposed by The Man, etc. Oops, maybe not. […]

android-open

The hoopla around Google’s Android mobile OS, and the resulting apps in the Android Market, is pretty strong. It’s laid on thick and fast. You know the drill; it’s “open” so it’ll be free from all the constraints imposed by The Man, etc.

Oops, maybe not. I’m not sure why people believed the steaming pile of hyperbole coming out of the “open” pundits, but it was just a matter of time before reality stepped in. Google has pulled tethering apps from the market.

There was no way this kind of filtering was not going to happen, and I said so here and here. In fact, in the latter article I even used tethering as a specific example:

Another example: Tethering is not allowed on the G1, but what if someone like, say, Nullriver posts a tethering app on the Android market place? Hey, it’s “open”, right? Who’s to stop them? Naturally, T-Mobile will go to Google to get the app pulled…

Despite what some may claim, “open” does not mean it’s open season on copyright violations or any other activities prohibited by TOS, contracts, license agreements, etc. We may want it to mean those things, but that doesn’t make it so. With all the advantages of a central app store comes the responsibility to police it. One can certainly argue that such policing is not done evenhandedly, or favors the larger partners involved, but this too is par for the course and beside the point anyway. The point is that “open” does not mean anything like free reign, and never did.

There are some who may argue this limits innovation, and while I see the point, I’m not sure I can agree. Certainly it doesn’t apply to tethering, which is hardly new. There is no innovation going on there from a software or hardware standpoint. The innovation needed from tethering must come from the carriers in how they handle this extremely useful feature (and that’s the subject of another article).

It’s hard to make a case for honoring contractual obligations or EULAs, or not violating existing copyrights, as being blocks to innovation. I see them more as blocks to questionable legal activity.

Meanwhile, the “open” community will probably condemn Google’s action, then deny it, then rationalize it, and then defend it. Finally, they’ll get right back to touting how “open” is the panacea; the cure for all that ails us, and everything Apple’s App Store is not. As before, they’ll be wrong, but I’m sure some will still believe it.

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  1. The fact that it was open was the ONLY reason I considered having one over the iPhone. I’m really glad I went with the iPhone… (Who am I kidding, I was glad before)

  2. Precisely! Google will soon be as restrictive as apple thanks to all the regulations and stupid people complaining about nudity and stuff.

    I wont be changing my iPhone unless i see major difference in terms of openness with Android.

    Anyway i’m quite happy with my iPhone and if i wanne use my mobile as a modem i always have my nokia that works like a charm :)

  3. Policing the marketplace is good and necessary to keep it functioning. The trick is to police it in such a way to keep the playing field even, while not over-regulating it (insert your favorite snarky General Motors comment here).

    Limitations (within reason) actually encourage innovation.

  4. James Kendrick Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    I wrote about this today too but there is one thing different about this restriction and that of the iPhone App Store. The Android Market is not the only place that developers can sell and distribute apps. These tethering app guys can still sell it elsewhere or themselves which is not possible for the iPhone.

  5. Mister Snitch Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    “Open” means never having to say you’re sorry.

  6. James,

    Fair enough, but my point is that Android being “open” does not make these types of apps any less questionable. That they were banned from the Android Market tends to bear that out.

  7. @James Kendrick although the market place isn’t the only place that you can get apps, the majority of users will get all of their apps from the market place and might not even know that you can install apps from other sources. For those “in the know” it is great that they can install apps from other sources but this means that th majority of users will never be able to enjoy tethering on their Android based device.

  8. Android still has all the advantages of being open, you can install any app you like. Apps of ‘questionable nature’ are still available, they are just not backed by Google, but hey, how surprising is that? That being open somehow changes the nature of what a ‘questionable app’ is, (as you state in comment 7) is held by no-one, and was not certainly not the point of your post.

  9. “My point is that Android being “open” does not make these types of apps any less questionable”. What exactly is questionable in an app that enables tethering? I think the fact that a lot of providers (not all of them, btw!) put ridiculous restrictions in their contracts is questionable. In a way it’s like selling a car but forbid the buyer to drive on the highway with it.

    Creating an application that enables a useful feature like tethering is not different that selling a car that can drive at 250 km/h in a country where the speed limit is 120 km/h. It is the responsibility of the driver to not break the law by driving too fast. And so it is the responsibility of the user of a phone to not break his contract with his provider, whether or not the contract contains ridiculous constraints. And if a driver or user decides to break the law or his contract, than it is his own decision and he has to face the consequences.

  10. What does this have to do with Apple? This is ‘The Apple Blog,’ not Engadget or Gizmodo.

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