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Does Google Hate Android Hackers?

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gigaom_icon_google-android2Google (s goog) has reportedly filed a cease-and-desist order against one of the Android platform’s most prolific developers. The developer, Steve Kondik, who’s known as Cyanogen, offers a free, after-market firmware product that bundles closed-source Google apps such as Gmail, Market, Talk and YouTube. CyanogenMod, as the app is dubbed, claims 30,000 users, many of whom appear to be hardcore Android fans. Lauren Weinstein, who writes extensively on Internet and privacy issues, wrote on his blog:

“I myself run a Cyanogen ROM on my G1. It’s fantastic stuff. Cyanogen provides an array of useful functionalities not yet in official Android releases — some of these enhancements may never be in official Android releases. Yet Cyanogen’s ROMs don’t cheat T-Mobile out of phone call revenue, won’t steal gold bullion from Fort Knox, nor will they even increase global warming…While I’m not a lawyer, I can understand Google’s formal concerns from a lawyer’s point of view. On the other hand, given the overall situation, such a stance seems not to be of the high ‘Googley’ caliber that I would normally expect from Google.”

Such a move would be an unusual one for Google, which has actively promoted its laissez-faire strategy with Android — a tack that contrasts starkly with Apple’s (s aapl) heavy-handed policing of its App Store. An online petition has been established in an effort to persuade Google to drop its alleged legal action against the CyanogenMod app. I’ve asked Google about the reported cease-and-desist order but have yet to hear back; I’ll update the story as I get more information.

27 Responses to “Does Google Hate Android Hackers?”

  1. i thought google’s whole “business model” for android was to get ppl to use their OS, meanwhile they would be watching and collecting advertising information and enabling other businesses to use that info and advertise to mobile users

    and, pursuant to that end, google would make the overall android experience “better” by seeding it with their excellent supporting apps

    now, they come out and stick an eye in the mod community that google themselves encouraged

    this ruins all that

    what a LOUSY p.r. move!!

    this reminds me of that phrase… “jump the shark” – once you do something stupid, there’s no coming back

    “don’t do evil” my ass

    google walked through a one-way door – there’s no coming back out

    boy, i bet google is happy they hired those lawyers now (pfft!)

  2. In practicality Google now controls the Android market. If you go down the list of apps they close-sourced you will see that the barrier to entry into the market is too high for an open community to penetrate. Core components like “Market”, “Sync” and others are just few examples.

    The question is not the licensing rights they may have but the overall control they exert on the market. On the face of it one might think that Apple has the legal right to control the iPhone market. Not that simple. Both Apple and Google can do so as long as the FCC does not decide that it has a chilling effect on the market. You can disagree with the FCC’s right to interfere, but that’s another matter (the use of regulated airwaves gives the regulator some unusual powers).

    Google just gave Apple a big argument to defent their rejection of Google voice.

    And if this community of Android fans brings this issue up, Google may realize that it is in their own best LEGAL interests to back off. Other valuable arguments do not impress lawyers. Lawyers only understand legal arguments and once this issue is brought up to their attention they have a fiduciary obligation to inform Google of the exposure with the FCC case.

  3. comeon guys

    the distribution of googles apps without asking has always been illegal.
    the apps are not part of android.
    samsung, htc and any third party has to license them so does this developer.

    however i’m sure they will figure out some agreement as google is always looking for a compromise

    • cyanogen only mods “google experience” phones – ie, only those phones that ALREADY HAVE THOSE APPS

      he’s not changing the apps themselves

      what’s the diff??

      “don’t be evil” my ass

      this is google’s “jump the shark” moment – after this they won’t be viewed the same

  4. I am so disappointed with Google. Google’s whole business model seemed to be centered around giving away software and services in exchange for reaching into people’s data.

    But according to Google’s official statement at, its a money issue involving the distribution of the software (gmail app, youtube app) that they normally sell to the handset manufacturers. Huh? Google, I thought I knew thee.

    I guess Google is all for people innovating at the expense of the MIcrosoft’s of the world, but once you encroach onto their turf in the name of innovation, its a different story.

    Can somebody please remind me why I went with Android and not an iPhone?

  5. The only thing google can make us do, is sign in to google account to access android. Our rooted CM is a fast micro computer. CM can survive without google. We already have the perfect rom, thank-you Cyanogen. Rip out google = CM 4.2

  6. The app market does not include some of these google applications (i.e. Gmail, Google Talk) so if they are not distributed with the modified rom the user will end up with a significantly inferior phone, practically defeating the reason for an alternate rom (and google can close the few remaining workaroud to get these apps).

    So legal issues aside, it appears that Google is trying to control the market and the user experience in the very same way Apple does.

    This opens the door for for Apple to go back to the FCC and say that they are not controlling the iPhone market more than Google does the Android app market. Google may have been penny wise and pound foolish. They thought they shot Cyanogen, buy may have shot themselves in the foot.

  7. The developer sites have been abuzz with young people like myself who never cared about programming until the G1. Hundreds of us have learned a little more about development tools, programming languages, and linux following the lead of Cyanogen, Haykuro, JesusFreke, and the Dude among others.

    Why would Google risk killing this fertile breeding ground for new developers with a shortsighted legal maneuver. This is bad PR, and bad business. We are the ones who waited for an alternative to the Iphone and who spent our hard earned paychecks to support Android.

    Shut Cyan down and I’ll jump ship on principal. Android isn’t the only show in town anymore and this legal talk makes Moblin, Limo, and Meamo look more appealing by the minute.

  8. I use the Cyanogen Mod and I love it, but there’s a simple solution for this: get Cyanogen to become an official licensee of the Google Android ROM/OHA groups. I’m sure it isn’t too costly, and his users shouldn’t have a problem flipping him $5 or $10 for what amounts to the best “app” for their droids.

    • Here is a better idea. Google recognizes that they risk upsetting their most vocal supporters, and give the binaries to Cyanogen to bundle in his rom.

      I don’t understand the problem. Google gives away the software to handset manufacturers anyhow.

      • you do realize that google licenses some the 3rd-party data it uses with google maps. that may be one of the reasons google wants this stopped. as for me i’m just gonna settle for an app that extracts these binaries from the rom and merge it with a minimal modded rom. i guess that’s good enough a challenge to whet the brilliant minds of our hacker friends, don’t you think?

      • @nom, I see your point, but for most of us, these applications already came with the phone. Aren’t I already licensed to use them? Seems that Google should at least make these apps available via the market if you are coming over a cell network (tmobile, etc).

        My guess is that its more about google maps though. The official response from Google says that they sell these applications to the handset manufacturers for inclusion on the devices, and that bundling these within the rom’s is stealing from Google. This sounds like an old school mentality, and not what I expect from Google.

      • “I don’t understand the problem. Google gives away the software to handset manufacturers anyhow.”

        The problem is that if they allow one developer to use those apps unlicensed anyone can do so and its they right to have some control over their own services.
        After all Android != Google and those apps are not essential to Android.
        Its not like Maemo where even core components are closed source.

      • i understand that having bought the phone, we have the right to use these applications but as end users we are not legally authorized to distribute such. ergo, i propose and i wish the modders will take up the challenge and give us a way to extract and merge this binaries ourselves.
        as for google selling these apps to hardware manufacturers, i’m with you to think it’s so old school and uncharacteristic of them. but if google goes down that road, i hope they would “sell” to modders as well.

  9. It has been a stellar PR week for Google, hasn’t it?

    Note to Google: You know that crowd of people sprinting your way because they didn’t like censorship in the iPhone/iTune application universe? Well, a bunch of them just decided that Phil Schiller might not be so bad.