Is Android Truly Open Source?

Android operating system has been a big hit since the announcement of the platform. Its popularity has grown exponentially over the last three years. One of the major factors for this growth in popularity, especially among mobile phone manufacturers is due to the open nature of android.  There are couple of mobile operating systems in the market today. Android is the only operating system that claims to be completely open source.

What Is An Open Source Software?

In the software world an open source software is one ,whose code is open for the user and also gives the user the permission to modify the code reuse , and freely distributed it with a license.

How Open Is Android?

Android operating system completely fulfills the promise of open source software in regard that one can directly download the code as well as modifying and reuse it. The user can modify the code and upload it to their phone. Google also allows mobile manufacturing companies to alter and modify android code to make it more personalized for the end user. This is especially useful for the common user as the smart phone becomes a lot more user-friendly. But there are many areas where Google maintains a strict control.

Among the concerns regarding the openness of android operating system are the following

  • Google does not reveal the current development going on behind the scene. This lack of transparency, makes it difficult for individual programmers to contribute to the whole project.
  • A user who is using an android powered device is only granted the “user rights”. A user right does not grant the user access to all the function of the device. If the user needs complete access to all the functions the boot loader has to be hijacked.
  • Unlike other open source projects, android does not have a development community. Google has a large control over the development.
  • The codes of many part of the android operating system are closed. The codes of elemental pars , such as e-mail client, calendar application, you Tube client, synchronization framework etc. are completely closed.
  • The programmers who contribute towards android development, cannot see the updates until Google releases it in the next updated version.

The main reason why an android operating system cannot live up to its name of being at truly open source software is down to the influence of mobile manufacturers. Devices like smartphones, which run android operating system carries lot of sensitive information like login passwords, credit card information etc. The mobile manufacturers claim that if android codes are completely open source, it would pose serious security vulnerabilities. Whether there is any truth for this claim is debatable. The sheer volume of smart phones and devices running android operating system will only make mobile manufacturers to lock down the codes even further.

Whether an android operating system is truly open source or not, one thing is sure, it has not stopped consumers from consuming devices running on android operating system. Let us know your views on the same.

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