Inside Google Android paranoia

Game changer?

Mobile Phone

While the mobile Linux community has reacted positively to Google's Android, the new platform has also given it some cause for concern. The arrival of a giant player area with very clear ideas of role it wants mobile Linux to fill was bound to ruffle a few feathers and, despite public proclamations of "welcome" and "support", the Linux establishment is showing a few cracks.

It is not only Google's support for a specific strand of Linux development that is causing concern - but the formation of yet another Linux knitting circle in the form of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA). Pre-Android, mobile Linux was not short of knitting circles arguing about the minutiae of various levels of the software stack based on mobile Linux with the result that efforts to establish mobile Linux standards were becoming increasingly fragmented and, indeed, holding back progress.

In addition to the efforts of the various knitting circles, Linux made steady progress across the mobile market this year even before Google stepped in. Palm announced its version of Linux last April and Access launched its Linux mobile platform at LinuxWorld in August. Both probably added to the growing fragmentation of mobile Linux.

Like it or not, Google has achieved something that none of the established knitting circles has managed so far; it has created a single target platform for developers to aim for. One early view of how you can build Android applications illustrates this.

But a unified standard does not necessarily play well with the established mobile Linux players. The LiPS Forum, for example, says it "regards OHA as complementary" and acknowledges that Android and the OHA have confirmed the popularity of Linux in mobile and embedded applications. LiPS also says that Android shares in its mission "to reduce fragmentation among Linux-based mobile platforms" - only with a different approach. While LiPS aims to unify the development of mobile Linux through open standards, it sees the Android and OHA team as working to the same end with shared code.

But elsewhere LiPS general manager Bill Weinberg has expressed concerns about the limitations of Google's use of the Apache license for Android and suggests that far from reducing fragmentation, Android might increase it.

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