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Google Play Services Supplants Android As Google's "Platform" 182

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the bad-problem-bad-solution dept.
exomondo writes "Google has a plan to circumvent the problem of fragmentation of its Android operating system across the installed base by using its proprietary, closed-source Google Play Services. Play Services is a privileged service that runs on Android and provides the sort of functionality to applications that would generally be seen in operating system updates like cloud backup, remote wipe, push messaging, etc... This service can be updated silently and independently of the operating system and runs on almost every version of Android out there allowing Google to add functionality to Android devices without having to go through the OEMs so having an up-to-date version of Android is looking like less of a necessity." It might be worth noting that Google originally rejected copyleft in favor of permissive licensing in the name of giving OEMs and carriers more control over Android on their devices.
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Google Play Services Supplants Android As Google's "Platform"

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  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@EEEgmail.com minus threevowels> on Monday September 02, 2013 @10:15PM (#44742597)

    It might be worth noting that Google originally rejected copyleft in favor of permissive licensing in the name of giving OEM sand carriers more control over Android on their devices.

    And thus /. hath bestowed upon us a new name for companies peddling crappy hardware.

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday September 02, 2013 @10:21PM (#44742629)

      Sand carriers always ride single file to hide their numbers

    • here are a few problems: The NSA can now install software on your phone, world wide. If you don't pay Google a monthly fee all your apps and data gets lost in the cloud. They can read all your data, remotely, and give you targeted adds. You can only buy apps from them, unless they let you. Always on the network DRM.
  • Fortunately, I keep "Google Play Services" cut off from the net via Droidwall. That should keep Google from fscking with the software on my phone without my review and permission.

    *My* computer. *My* choice about whether to apply a software change.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      DroidWall is dead as shit, and didn't work on my N4 on JB 4.3.

      Android Firewall is a fork, free, no ads, and works good.
      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jtschohl.androidfirewall&hl=en

      • DroidWall is dead as shit, and didn't work on my N4 on JB 4.3.

        Can't speak for shiny new phones. It works on my Epic 4G running Gingerbread. I'll keep Android FW in mind when I upgrade, though.

    • Lots of software installed via Play wont like that and refuse to run.
      • Re:DroidWall (Score:4, Informative)

        by Unknown Lamer (78415) Works for Slashdot <clinton@NOSPAM.unknownlamer.org> on Monday September 02, 2013 @11:31PM (#44742919) Homepage Journal

        F-Droid [f-droid.org] has a pretty good catalog nowadays. I've eliminated everything proprietary from my phone life except for Google Maps and those pesky hardware drivers. Osmand [osmand.net] is pretty close to replacing Maps too... navigation basically works (even offline, although I've yet to try using it for more than echoing routes I already know) but POI searching is hit and miss (e.g. when searching for my bank it says the closest location is 17mi away, when there's one about 3mi away). It's actually nicer in a number of ways: maps and POI data can be stored offline (I have my entire state stored, what's 400M when you've got a 16G SD card?), you can record GPX routes (without eating tons of battery even), navigation can be simulated, it has a handy elevation and distance tool (great for biking), ...

        • F-Droid has a pretty good catalog nowadays. I've eliminated everything proprietary from my phone life except for Google Maps and those pesky hardware drivers.

          Has the community figured out a business model for funding development of a video game for distribution under a license for free software and free cultural works? Or do you just choose not to play video games more complex than Solitaire?

          • by Ash-Fox (726320)

            Has the community figured out a business model for funding development of a video game for distribution under a license for free software and free cultural works?

            Yes, the community has figured out how to do 'Kickstarter' campaigns.

            • Would you name some notable Free video games that were funded through Kickstarter, so that I and other developers who are first-time users of Kickstarter can understand how this tool was used successfully in the past and in this way figure out how best to use this tool? And what's the best way to approach establishing a US, UK, or Canadian subsidiary in order to qualify under KS's guidelines [kickstarter.com]?
              • by Ash-Fox (726320)

                Would you name some notable Free video games that were funded through Kickstarter

                Trick question! Despite knowing many games, I can't even think of one I'd consider notable from this year. AAA titles like Bioshock: Infinite in my opinion aren't even notable.

                I and other developers who are first-time users of Kickstarter can understand how this tool was used successfully in the past and in this way figure out how best to use this tool?

                You may wish to look at examples of other open source projects using kickst

                • by tepples (727027)

                  Trick question! Despite knowing many games, I can't even think of one I'd consider notable from this year. AAA titles like Bioshock: Infinite in my opinion aren't even notable.

                  By notable, I was referring to a video game that "has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of" the game's developer or publisher. For example, a major online encyclopedia's article about BioShock Infinite cites over 200 sources. I was assuming that if I could find an open source game that had been covered by the news media, I could read the coverage and look for what went right.

                  You may wish to look at examples of other open source projects using kickstarter

                  The article "Crowdfunding Video Games" [crowdfundinsider.com] by JD Alois claims that a successful campaign starts by "L

                  • by Ash-Fox (726320)

                    The article "Crowdfunding Video Games" by JD Alois claims that a successful campaign starts by "Leveraging strong social network ties". So how would one go about getting those "strong social network ties" in the first place?

                    My project (also FOSS) did it through our links in the Second life combat community through being an already pre-existing and active participating group in the community. This probably doesn't help you since it's specific to our project. If there was a universal formula and method, every

    • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Monday September 02, 2013 @11:23PM (#44742889)
      I just use Airplane Mode. Nothing gets past that!
      • by Threni (635302)

        Uhh.. apart from all data sent and received over WiFi.

        • Airplane mode shuts down ALL communication, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and of course the radio that talks to the cell towers.

          • by AikonMGB (1013995)

            You can turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth while in airplane mode if you so choose (possibly NFC as well, but I haven't tried).

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Uhh.. apart from all data sent and received over WiFi.

          Do you actually know what airplane mode does?

          It disables all communications, cellular and wireless -- when it's in airplane mode, there should be zero emissions from it.

          Any device which didn't do that would be in violation of FCC rules.

          I play most games in airplane mode to block their ads and crap. In fact, when I first download something, I put the device into airplane mode and confirm it doesn't require a network connection. Any game which can't be p

    • I've never used Droidwall, but you can block Google with just a few entries in your /etc/hosts file (just like on any other Linux box) just as easily, and without having to run any other services.
    • Re:DroidWall (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Omestes (471991) <omestes@gmail.CURIEcom minus physicist> on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @03:48AM (#44744199) Homepage Journal

      I really don't get all the hate on this service. It is better than the alternative; devices that are never updated because carriers and manufacturers would rather you go out and buy more hardware every year. This happened to my Droid (Verizon) and Transformer (ASUS), after a single update, they never received even a modicum of support again.

      Oh no, Android is slightly more useful, at the cost of carriers and manufactures... must be a terrible plot.

      I understand wanting control, but sadly mobile devices have moved way beyond that. You can't control your hardware nor, really, your software. They aren't desktop computers... Sadly. I would kill for upgradable mobile devices, so I don't have to toss them every year. I find disposable hardware to be a bit vulgar. Then add in the fact, that sans rooting (if possible) that your device will never, ever, see an upgrade. So to get more functions, and security, you need to go shell out $300+ for a new device. If you're not on a contract, then you might just be screwed.

      I'm also happy that Google recognizes, finally, fragmentation.

    • Re:DroidWall (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ash-Fox (726320) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @06:12AM (#44744735)

      Fortunately, I keep "Google Play Services" cut off from the net via Droidwall.

      Droidwall requires root access. This is not usable for the majority and therefore I feel that this should not be considered helpful advice but instead, 'gloating'.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The manufacturers and carriers have ZERO interest in supporting devices after the ink is dried on the contract. The manufacturers want to be apple and sell a new phone every time the O/S gets even the most basic of incremental improvements to functionality. The carriers are right there with a fresh contract extension and a kriss bladed knife ready to seal the deal in blood.

    The rooting community is the only group actively supporting devices. Google on the other hand has almost zero stake in contracts or hard

    • by Desler (1608317) on Monday September 02, 2013 @10:51PM (#44742737)

      The manufacturers want to be apple and sell a new phone every time the O/S gets even the most basic of incremental improvements to functionality.

      How exactly is that being like Apple other than in your invented version of reality? The iPhone 4 was discontinued October of 2011 and is slated to also get iOS 7 coming out later this year. The 3GS got discontinued in September of last year it still received iOS updates to 6.1.3 from last March. The 3G was discontinued in June 2010 yet continued receiving iOS updates until November of 2010. And the original iPhone was discontinued July 2008 and still received iOS updates until February of 2010.

      • by Desler (1608317)

        And, yes, the iPhone 4 and 4S will not get all features of iOS 7 but they are still getting a large portion of it along with the security fixes.

      • by jrumney (197329)

        The iPhone 4 was discontinued October of 2011...

        The 8GB iPhone 4 is still in production (rumored to be replaced at the bottom end soon by the iPhone 5C). Only the 16GB and 32GB versions were discontinued to make way for the 4S. Apple has consistently released major OS upgrades only for models that are current on the day of the announcement (including models that are discontinued as of that same date due to simultaneous new product announcements). Ask any iPhone 3G user that upgraded to iOS 5 whether they

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Ask any iPhone 3G user that upgraded to iOS 5 whether they think this is a good or bad thing.

          Or anybody with an original iPad ... iOS 5.5 is a crashy pile of junk, and I wish I could roll back to an older version, but sadly 'wiping' the device just deletes everything but doesn't affect the version of the OS.

          To me, two years was far too short of a time to support the device given what I paid for it -- so my iPad has largely been relegated to a corner and my Nexus 7 gets used in its place.

          The only thing I mis

      • He didn't say anything about how Apple supports their devices, just that manufacturers and carriers want to sell devices as much as Apple does. He then notes that but they want to do it without having to upgrade the older ones. I think you're being a bit defensive there bud. The only misconception of reality here is in what you think he said. Apple's support of older devices is great. Google's is getting much better, especially given the logistical challenges of Android. (This is the whole point of the

      • The iPhone 4 was discontinued October of 2011 and is slated to also get iOS 7 coming out later this year.

        The fourth-generation iPod touch was discontinued a year later, in October 2012, and isn't getting iOS 7. This means that for example, someone who bought an iPod touch a year ago won't be able to use a game controller, as game controller support is new in iOS 7.

    • .....

      Samsung is the only manufacturer that doesn't have their head up their

      Well they are not keeping up. I have wonderful phone from Samsung
      and the base OS is locked at old and musty. Worse the graphics code
      does not take advantage of the graphics hardware as it should.

      One of the critical buggers in phone land is the big system lump upgrade.
      The Android team apparently elected to structure things to exclude modest updates
      and fail to establish a path for trusted updates.

      But this stuff is all new. A couple turns of the crank and good things are possible.

    • they'd like you to keep your phone, thank you very much. Even at $600 bucks some of them still have a subsidy.
    • by petman (619526)

      HTC is currently the only brand I'm willing to buy because unlike Samsung, they have figured out that locked boot-loaders are bad for business.

      Non-carrier branded Samsung phones don't have locked bootloaders.

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        HTC also didn't really "figure it out". About 40000 people posted complaints on their FaceBook page.

      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        Right now, as much as I dislike Samsung, I have to give them credit with respect to bootloader locking. Verizon devices were the ONLY bootloader-locked Samsungs until the Galaxy S4, when AT&T was added to the list. Note that pretty much all HTCs on these carriers have been locked down too. (The One on AT&T is strange, I think HTC intentionally "made a mistake" by whitelisting these devices.)

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      "which is why the Galaxy S is on version 4" - bullshit. The original Aries family deadended at Gingerbread, despite the fact that they were nearly identical spec-wise to the Nexus S which made it as far as 4.0 or 4.1 (I can't remember if crespo got 4.1 or if it EOLed when 4.2 was released...)

      This is despite the fact that the community had 4.0 running within a few weeks, has released 4.1 and 4.2 for that device, and even 4.3 seems to be coming along OK so far.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 02, 2013 @10:29PM (#44742655)

    After the raw OS, Google needs to have something unique/proprietary to offer users. That's all the google play interconnected stuff... The Google-specific stuff is... in the Gapps. It makes sense... that's where Google's ecosystem integrates with the OS.

    Nearly everything that can be moved out of the main OS has been.

    That's not exactly true-- try running a Cyanogenmod build sometime without Gapps. It still works well-- just as you'd expect, you don't have the Google-related things, but there is a non-branded browser, and it's still a very usable device. But yeah, you don't get the benefits (or risks, depending on your POV) of using Google's services.

    Still, it's an interesting theory that the OS work is basically done now so new feature work is going to be piled over google services/gapps. I suspect it's a bit overstated as I'd think there is plenty of platform/OS-level and basic framework improvements still to do. Many of the UI advances in the Google services have been built in tandem with corresponding framework development (though much of it is backported all the way to v4),

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's not exactly true-- try running a Cyanogenmod build sometime without Gapps. It still works well-- just as you'd expect, you don't have the Google-related things, but there is a non-branded browser, and it's still a very usable device.

      and what happens when developers start taking advantage of new features from Play Services? Android itself will stagnate and the only viable way for consumers to go will be Google's proprietary, closed Android distribution. Sure the underlying OS is open much like Dar

    • by taxman_10m (41083)

      I just did that in fact. I'm not sure what I'm missing out on by having not installed Gapps. No Google+?

      • I'm not sure what I'm missing out on by having not installed Gapps.

        If your bank makes its check/cheque deposit application for Android available only on Google Play Store, not on Amazon or direct APK download, you'll have to take the bus to the ATM to deposit a payment that you receive from a relative.

        • by taxman_10m (41083)

          i don't understand then. Over the weekend i did cyanogenmod w/out google apps, but i have the play store on my phone right now.

          • by Andy Dodd (701)

            This is not possible, unless you just reflashed CM over an existing install that had gapps - CM has a built in backup system that lets addon packages create a backup script which will be used by the CM installer. The most well known user of this feature is gapps - so it gets backed up and reinstalled any time you flash a CM update.

      • The biggest one is Maps the v2 (Android) Google Maps API is part of Google Play services. (What 3rd party devs use).

        Anyways, there is a picture in TFA that covers the Google services & apps you would lose without Google Play Services (i.e. almost all of them).

        I think you would also lose any games/paid apps that use the Play store licensing (LVL).

      • Honestly, I'd miss the Play Store and G+ ... However all my E-mail is done with K-9 and navigation with Waze (which is soon to be Google I understand).

        • by Nerdfest (867930)

          K-9 is a fantastic mail client, especially since it support encryption. It would be nice to see a few more people using it.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      As well as being a technically elegant solution I think they probably have Microsoft's experience at the back of their minds. When MS tried to make the browser and media player a core part of the OS they got bollocked by various governments, but on Android every component is easily replaceable.

      I'm surprised Apple gets away with it, but apparent they have the president of the US on their side at the moment.

  • It might be worth noting that Google originally rejected copyleft in favor of permissive licensing in the name of giving OEM sand carriers more control over Android on their devices.

    They did, but that practice of benevolence was quickly up once the time from code release to users adoption became astronomical, causing pitchforks and branding irons labled 'fragmentation' to bought out by every fanboy and 'industry expert'. Something had to be done.

    Besides, Android as a pure OS is still freely available so that hackers and researchers can continue peacefully using the software. As for this new play services app, I'm a little concerned about what possible exploitable backdoors this mi

  • Which just for the record probably means he is on the latest Chromium branch or one of those based on Chromium as i have noticed the "weird spacing error" thing since the last update, and instead focus on this great news?

    As someone who owns an Android pre-paid (finally got out from under that contract, praise the FSM) this is great news but I have a few reservations...does this mean they'll be forcing updates to ICS on devices that can't run it well? Will they just abandon all but the latest and greatest? o

    • Gingerbread phones run Google Play Services* pretty well.

      That's kind of the point, they can push out updates to say the Maps API and let devs use those APIs on older phones.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Yes they do NOW but that was the point I was trying to make, will Google allow that into the future? After all I'm sure if they had their way all phones and tablets would be ICS, just one version to support means less cost and the new devices have more memory and more powerful CPUs so they can do more with a new 4.x phone than they can a 2.x phone.

        Of course whether more equals better is up for interpretation as I have seen one of those 2.x phones easily beat a 4.x Samsung, even though the LG Slider 2.x had

        • by spacepimp (664856)

          The more devices using Google search/services/ads makes money for Google. They don't make more money by having you buy a new phone. It is in Googles best interest to have as many people accessing their services as possible. Cutting off a user base only hurts their bottom line. Try that with MS or Apple and the numbers never work out the same for the consumer.

  • Settings > Apps > Google Play Services > Disable
    • This is not a good idea, you'll end up breaking a lot of apps if you do this. Disabling Google Services would also disable the ability for 3rd party apps to make use of the many, many APIs it contains (where are very useful for app devs).

      FTA:

      Right now Play Services handles the Google Maps API, Google Account syncing, remote wipe, push messages, the Play Games back end, and many other duties. If you ever question the power of Google Play Services, try disabling it. Nearly every Google App on your device will break.

      • This affects only Google APIs. So if you disable the Google-Service, any apps talking to Google-Services won't work anymore. Big surprise.
      • I use Osmand (gmaps still works fine, BTW), like hell I give Google all my data, remote wipe won't work in any case because I have no data on my plan, I use Aquamail instead Gmail and I rarely play games.

        I've disabled Google Play Services and there are no problems because I don't expect mommy Google to do everything for me.

  • I can see the utility in google being able to push out new services and frameworks via Google Play.

    However it seems like the danger as far as Android being a more open system, is that now you can't change or examine Google Play yourself.

    I did try googling for Google Play source, but it seems the sort of thing Google would not likely provide source for... they may very well for embedded frameworks it pushes out I suppose, but then how would you load modified versions?

  • by echusarcana (832151) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @12:22AM (#44743149)
    A quick check on XDA Developers suggests that many ROMs are having problems with Google Play Services right now: excessive battery usage, high data usage. It is hard to tell because the simple monitoring tools don't break down what this mysterious piece of software is doing. It might be some subtle version incompatibility.
    So what happens when a monolithic chunk of software has a *really* bad release? Putting all your eggs in one basket is a serious risk.
    • I do think there were some bugs to be worked out because they patched the app signature stuff, but the reality is that those ROMs are not getting Google Play from Google, nor do they officially support them.

      http://wiki.cyanogenmod.org/w/Gapps [cyanogenmod.org]

      Incidentally, on any given day any quick check of XDA will show ROMs with a wide variety of bugs. Many of the ROMs on XDA are put together by hobbists who have figured out how to build AOSP from source. Many are quite talented and experienced but do not have a staff o

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Updates are not mandatory, and you can easily install old versions of Google apps. I am currently running the last V6.x issue of Maps, for example, because the new V7.x ones don't have the navigation without destination feature I use every day.

  • Pushing updates means your phone or apps break, just one day for no apparent reason. It's why I don't have a smartphone. My SOs sucks so bad we had to buy her a tablet just so she could use her apps and read her books.

    My dumbphone is good enough . I look forward to Ubuntu tablets and phones.

    • by jbeaupre (752124)

      My SOs sucks so bad we had to buy her a tablet

      Has her sucking improved?

      (sorry, couldn't resist)

  • Open (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sydneyfong (410107) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @01:40AM (#44743539) Homepage Journal

    the definition of open: "mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make"

    • by 21mhz (443080)

      A good one-liner. Now honestly, have you ever tried to build and run that on a hardware of your choice?

      • OP was quoting Andy Rubin at Google [slashgear.com] explaining why android is "open" and ios is not. The point being that 3 years later, Andrdoid doesn't really qualify as open by Google's own definition.

        Google is slowly morphing into just another proprietary software corp - my feeling is that it is because of management changes where the new guys think that because google is now the biggest fish in the pond that there really isn't any point in trying to make the pond bigger, they probably feel threatened by the chance of

  • Open-source? Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chickybrick (3033037) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @02:31AM (#44743821)

    "Of course it's an open-source OS! But we moved all the important parts to a closed-source mega-app which can give itself permission to do anything it wants."

    Having said that, I'm not sure I want to start bashing Google too much. People complain about fragmentation and feature exclusion, but complain again when Google introduces a work-around to deal with slow vendor updates. Damned both ways, and if there was a simple, easy solution that did not entirely lock down the OS, it would have pushed out already.

    • by knarf (34928)

      You don't actually need those Google services to run whatever you want on your device. It is easy and painless togo without, either by using one of the ccompeting 'app stores' or by foregoing on the app store concept altogether and installing whatever you want manually - as I've done since day 1 on android. So yes, android is open source and can be used like any other open source system.

  • Your answer to "fragmentation" is here
  • by Thry (962012) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @06:35AM (#44744807)
    All your laziness has led to proprietary, closed-source services being dropped on the phone to cover your asses.
  • by gravis777 (123605) on Tuesday September 03, 2013 @07:04AM (#44744901)

    Going through the comments, it seems as if I am the only person who seems to think this is a good thing. I got a name-brand phone, but its on a discount carrier. Surprisingly, Cyanogen does not have a fork for my phone (apparently, even though this phone is the most popular Samsung Galaxy my carrier carries, it is still not popular enough for a Cyanogen Mod ROM). My phone is stuck on 2.3.6, meaning that I can't use TWC app on it. I don't think my provider has EVER pushed out an OTA update for any of their phones. My old phone was on 2.0, but luckily there was a Cyanogen Mod for it (actually, it was not an official release, had to dig through forums to find people working on it), and was able to get it to 2.3

    My tablett is worse - it is made by an off-name brand chinese company (actually considering wiping it next year and giving it to a friend and picking up a Nexus), and it is only that they released a VERY SIMILAR tablet with a newer OS on it that I was able to get the thing to update to 4.1, otherwise I would still be stuck on 2.1. However, because the phone is rooted, I cannot view Ultraviolet content on it. (Stupid, really, as Netflix works just fine)

    So to get updated features, I have to root my device, mess with half a dozen ROMs before finding one that works, go back into the Cyanogen Mod settings (if there is a Cyanogen Mod ROM, otherwise whatever ROM you are using) and punch in my carrier details, hoping my data and texts still work, and run the risk of possibly bricking my device.

    Now Google is talking about pushing out updates through the Play Store? What a brilliant idea! Give people new features without them having to Root their phones or install custom ROMs. This will also mean for app developers that more devices will have newer features, allowing special features of your app to run on more devices. This sounds like a VERY good thing.

    If you don't like it, block the updates. But for the rest of us, this sounds like a great idea, and I can't wait for Google to push out thier first new updates, and hope this means better app support on my devices.

  • I have a low-end phone. It came with a number of google apps that "work" (google play music/books/mags, youtube, google+). When I set "automatically update" it gives me new versions that eat up the battery, run in the background when I don't want, or fail to update because they are too big. I can't disable the new apps unless I uninstall back to the original and I can't uninstall the original but only disable it. So I have to update manually and only get the apps I want to update.

  • This move by Google may be the best thing to happen to Ubuntu's OS. I know that, personally, Ubuntu's offering hasn't interested me at all -- but if Google really wants to go this direction, I'll have little choice but to go with Ubuntu.

  • Play updates itself, in the background and without asking the user. Even when you configured, that you need to confirm updates, the play store updates itself silently in the background.
    You may lose features of old versions, get annoying new features, but the worst is, Google is part of prism, and can execute any new code on your phone, anytime they want.

    F-Droid is cool, but missing the commercial apps.

    Amazon appstore could be an option, because it needs to use the android "install APK" Function with a confi

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