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Leak: Google's Open Handset Alliance a "myth"

updated 07:45 am EDT, Mon May 3, 2010

Open Handset Alliance said solely for Google

Google's Open Handset Alliance is really just a hollow shell, according to a leak from a former executive. The unnamed one-time company head called the Alliance "oligarchical" and argued that it really revolved around Android. OHA is just a front to create the appearance of a group, he said.

"The power is concentrated with the Google employees who manage the open source project," the former leader said.

Research director Andreas Constantinou at analyst firm VisionMobile told mocoNews on Monday that the OHA was a "myth" and that membership, which includes hardware makers like HTC and Motorola as well as carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile, amounted to just a "VIP Club badge" but without the privileges that entailed.

The description helps explain an increasing split in how the organization's members behave. HTC has been one of the largest examples and has developed its custom Sense UI layer for Android without rolling the code back into the Alliance for others to share. Verizon's decision to drop the Nexus One is considered symbolic; although Verizon isn't a member, it shows the carrier drawing attention away from Google's reference Android design in favor of the customized experience of the Droid Incredible.

Other examples of fragmentation have included Samsung's use of a Bada-like layer on the Galaxy S and Sony Ericsson's Timescape interface for the XPERIA X10. Many OHA memmbers have taken a much higher level of interest in Android in the past several months but have rarely kept to the stock Android OS or shared their knowledge.

The attitude mentioned by the executive hints at Google adopting a more Apple-like control over its mobile OS. Android is still partly open source and is less strictly controlled, but the revelations now imply that Google often has near-exclusive input into the core features.

Google hasn't commented on the claims.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004


    Open Source = Magical

    It's clear from these 'shock' corrections to people's understanding of open source, that open source had taken on a mythical standing in some communities.

    Open Source does not mean "consensus" on every issue. It does not mean you can direct Google employees from the outside and tell them what to code.

    They still have their usual right to self-determination and can code what they chose, with their time and their money.

    Open source DOES mean, anyone can download it, and branch that code for their own use, and that is still an important feature - it's basically why Motorola and HTC have either (saved their business-in Motorola's case - or become a first tier phone maker - in HTC's case).

    These are great examples of businesses that leveraged open source to their advantage. BTW, Apple is another success story in that area. They didn't have the resources to develop a browser all on their own - the original mobile Safari - webkit - was a branch off an open source project, and webkit has become a legendary open source project in its own right, even if, its largely an Apple employee written project.

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