Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Free as in FREEDOM

No, the term "open" has been thrown around in so many wrong ways since Android's climb in popularity that it has lead to this sort of misinformation. The Android Marketplace is the same basic idea as iOS' App Store. It is a repository for apps and such that goes through a submission/review process. Each submission is subject to a set of rules that may or may not be cut and dry, meaning some rules are open to a bit of interpretation. It just so happens that Android is less strict about what they want to allow on their Marketplace than Apple is about their App Store.

The only thing more "open" about Android is the fact that the core operating system is open source. That doesn't translate to the software on your phones, though, and that's another place where people are misusing the term "open." The OS is open source, not the drivers, not the firmware, not the ROM that was tweaked by the manufacturer, not the carrier tweaks. Once the OS is loaded into a consumer device, that device is locked, meaning that instance of Android is no longer "open." Ever notice how you have to root an Android phone to load custom cooked ROMs and such? It's the same as Jailbreaking an iPhone. That's all jailbreaking is; obtaining root access to the device so that the operating system is open to full write access by the end user.

It's a popular misuse likely due to the amount of tweaking you can do to an Android device without hacking it, compared to an iPhone, which didn't have support for a custom wallpaper for the first two full years of its life. Adding to this misuse would be the availability of things like emulators in the Marketplace, which are only available on iPhones after you jailbreak them. But this isn't the definition of the term "open" as it is mistakenly being used in instances like these. Open refers to the open source nature of the operating system before it is installed on a device that then has write access priviledges restricted.

Sorry for the rant, I guess this is my nerd peeve. Everybody gets one...?