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Google Apps License Forbids Forking, Promotes Google Services 163

Posted by timothy
from the also-requires-you-bow-to-satan-and-eat-twinkies dept.
Sockatume writes "If you want to ship a phone with Google's apps on it, you need to license them. A copy of the OEM licensing agreement from 2011 was recently leaked, and Ars Technica provides a summary. Amongst the rules: a company licensing Google Apps can't act in a way that would fragment Android, but must also maintain the platform's open-ness; most of Google's services must be included; Google apps must be defaults, and placed within a couple of clicks of the default home screen. No surprises, but it's interesting to see the details laid out."
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Google Apps License Forbids Forking, Promotes Google Services

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  • Antitrust (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aphor (99965) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:00PM (#46239475) Journal
    Tying apps to phones might be illegal by Sherman Act: using dominance in mobile device OS market as leverage in the device app market.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I agree with you that this sounds like it ought to be in violation of the Sherman Act, but give the shenanigans Apple has pulled and gotten away with on their ecosystem (rejecting apps that compete with their core offerings, that whole equal pricing through the app store and a merchants website, etc), I highly doubt any legal backlash over this policy.

      • by arbiter1 (1204146)
        Yea its funny how offen apple gets away with same thing other companies get attacked for. Givin how google DOES give android out for free, that plays a roll in to that google can't be gone after for anything.
        • Apple has 7.68% of the desktop market and 15.42% of the mobile market. They can pull a lot of stuff without getting into trouble because they don't have anything like the market share required to exert undue influence on the market. When they have larger shares, for example in the online music distribution market a few years ago, they do get investigated.

          Your comment makes as much sense as complaining that your corner shop doesn't get into trouble for doing things that would be the target of antitrust

          • What folks around here seem to forget is that Apple tends to punch above it's market share weight. Likely because it inhabits a very profitable niche and the Reality Distortion Field is still has some power to it. And it's Apple. And MacBooks are cool. But is is a small player overall.

            And just to keep all of the Apple haters happy, let's be clear that the US Government has spent quite a bit of time attempting to nail Apple [justice.gov] when it thinks they've abused a position in the market place.

            • having 50-ish percent of the smartphone market, ~15% of the laptop market (and the lions share of the high-end laptop market), and being the 9th most profitable company in the world packs a pretty hard punch.

              Likely because it inhabits a very profitable niche

              what niche is that? smartphones, tablets, or laptop PCs?

      • by Karlt1 (231423)

        I agree with you that this sounds like it ought to be in violation of the Sherman Act, but give the shenanigans Apple has pulled and gotten away with on their ecosystem (rejecting apps that compete with their core offerings, that whole equal pricing through the app store and a merchants website, etc), I highly doubt any legal backlash over this policy.

        2010 called they want there meme back.

        What next? Are you going to complain that Apple sells DRM'd music?

    • Re:Antitrust (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CTalkobt (81900) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:14PM (#46239583) Homepage
      They're not tying it to the phone. They're tying it to the permission to utilize the Android trademark and to utilize the Google Apps. Think of it this way, "Here's a box of screws. If you want to use my hammer, then you need to use my wood also." "If you don't want to, go elsewhere." is fine and no lumber yard would run into anti-trust issues over it. (Might run out of customers however due to nature of the business).
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:20PM (#46239631)

        "Here's a box of screws. If you want to use my hammer, then you need to use my wood also."

        If you're using a hammer for screws, you're doing it wrong.

        • by CTalkobt (81900)
          >> >>"Here's a box of screws. If you want to use my hammer, then you need to use my wood also."
          >> If you're using a hammer for screws, you're doing it wrong.
          This is Slashdot remember?

          If I did make a logical argument people would still argue with me non-sensically. At least this way, I get to pick the argument focus for those individuals. :-)

          Yeah.. that's what I was thinking of when I typed that...

      • 'You can only use our hammers if you only use our hammers' - might not play quite so well legally.

        • by CTalkobt (81900)
          Then you don't buy the hammer - or you use the one that they're giving away for free (open source) but you don't get to call it their hammer (ref: Amazon).
        • You can't use our hammers if you also don't use our nails and our boards and buy them all from our web store.

      • Re:Antitrust (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Animats (122034) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @04:41PM (#46240731) Homepage

        The official position of the U.S. Department of Justice [justice.gov] is squishy-soft on antitrust enforcement on tie-in sales. This is partly in response to the "U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's 2001 decision in United States v. Microsoft [wikipedia.org] (the Internet Explorer/Windows tying case) which rejected application of the per se rule to "platform software," thereby "carving out what might be called a 'technology exception' to that rule.

        What's killed the effectiveness of the Clayton Act is Justice Department policy on "economic analysis". The economic argument is that allowing monopolies to achieve economies of scale is good for the consumer. Read the DoJ position statement linked above, especially the sections on "prosecutorial discretion", to see this.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It does not. Of course the Sherman act isn't a law, so you can't violate it as such. It's what and when the government should look at trust issues.

      • The Sherman Antitrust Act [wikipedia.org] is most certainly a law. It's part of the US Code (Title 15). It describes who to prosecute and how. Rather law like.

      • It does not. Of course the Sherman act isn't a law, so you can't violate it as such. It's what and when the government should look at trust issues.

        ...what do you think the 'Act' in Sherman Act refers to?

    • From looking at wikipedia the Sherman act doesn't say that. I think your thinking of the Clayton Anti-Trust act. The Clayton act made illegal

      sales on the condition that (A) the buyer or lessee not deal with the competitors of the seller or lessor ("exclusive dealings") or (B) the buyer also purchase another different product ("tying") but only when these acts substantially lessen competition (Act Section 3, codified at 15 U.S.C. 14);

      Here Google isn't doing A(exclusive dealings). They are allowing other peoples apps on the phone. They allow competing search and location providers. They just require that Google be the default. They are "tying" different product together. It is possible to argue that this substantially lessens competition.

      • by rossdee (243626)

        "I think your thinking of the Clayton Anti-Trust act. The Clayton act made illegal"

        The USA has a Clayton's Anti-Trust Act? Thats priceless

        (In OZ and NZ there used to be a drink (non-alcoholic) called Clayton's . It was advertised as "The drink I have when I am not having a drink"
        Although the product eventually disappeared, the adjective Clayton's still remained in the popular usage)

        • by mjwx (966435)

          (In OZ and NZ there used to be a drink (non-alcoholic) called Clayton's . It was advertised as "The drink I have when I am not having a drink"
          Although the product eventually disappeared, the adjective Clayton's still remained in the popular usage)

          For people under 40, its kind of fallen out of popular usage.

          A bit off topic, but the British were best at this, they had a drink (alcoholic) called Dickins Cider.

    • by technomom (444378)

      That's the beauty of this agreement. The apps are not being tied to Android. OEMs are free to build upon pure Android if they want and they can do so without including any of the Google apps at all. What this agreement states is that *if* they include the Google apps, they must take the package in its entirety and under the conditions specified.

  • Wasn't Android derived from Linux?

    And isn't Linux GPL?

    What's going on here? Why is Google allowed to limit what others can do with GPL code?

    • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kenja (541830) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:13PM (#46239579)
      Android is based on Linux. The Google apps are not. Despite what some people claim, not everything written for a GPL operating system must be open source.
      • Android is based on Linux. The Google apps are not. Despite what some people claim, not everything written for a GPL operating system must be open source.

        I don't think the argument is that Google is doing something illegal. I think the question is are they being unethical. They've been trumpeting how open Android is, and their contracts basically say if you work with them you cannot treat it as an open system. They're acting as if Android is more like Linux, but in practice it's more like iOS. I can go check out the base source for iOS/OS X from source control too if I wanted (http://opensource.apple.com).

        • by technomom (444378)

          Wrong. That's not what this agreement says. Android is still open and OEMs are free to build out AOSP with their own apps.

          What this says is that if you take the Google apps, you must include the whole package under the terms specified. That's all.

          Sooo many posts here written by people who didn't actually read the article.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Wrong. That's not what this agreement says. Android is still open and OEMs are free to build out AOSP with their own apps.

            What this says is that if you take the Google apps, you must include the whole package under the terms specified. That's all.

            Sooo many posts here written by people who didn't actually read the article.

            Actually, if you sign the agreement to bundle Google apps, you're restricting in what you can release. If you want, you can release a vanilla AOSP phone. However, if you want to release a p

            • by technomom (444378)

              But you don't need to sign this agreement if you don't include Google apps on any of your devices. That's the point. Amazon, Ubuntu, Firefox all build AOSP devices without Google apps. It can be done. Of course, the hard part is making your own services and apps layer on them that makes it something people would want to use.

              What Acer violated was the Open Handset Alliance agreement, something different than the agreement discussed here. Again, you don't have to belong to the Open Handset Alliance

              • by technomom (444378)

                Correction, I should have said that Amazon, et al build ANDROID devices, not AOSP. My bad.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Android is based on Linux. The Google apps are not. Despite what some people claim, not everything written for a GPL operating system must be open source.

        No it's not, at least not in a copyright sense. The Linux kernel is GPLv2. The Android code running on top is Apache licensed and open source, but written from scratch using no (L)GPL code which means none of the usual libraries, no GNU tools, nothing. It's the GNU/Linux RMS was yammering about stripped of all the GNU. The Google apps running on top of Android again are closed source.

    • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grantbridge (1377621) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:15PM (#46239593)
      All of Android is open source, except Google Play/Market, Gmail app, Google Maps, etc If you want your phone to have the Google App store, then you need to obey their terms and conditions. Just because the OS is open source doesn't mean any program which runs on it has to be. There are plenty of non GPL programs available for Linux! An android phone WITHOUT access to Google app store, Google Maps, Calender, Gmail etc isn't going to be much use to the majority of Android users. This is how Google controls Android.
      • Re:Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gutnor (872759) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:55PM (#46239971)

        The list of exception is rather significant: the missing apps are also the foundations of the API other apps uses. So you are not just missing out on the Google App Store and a few standalone apps, but all the API related to those apps too - which a very exhaustive list.

        When people say "Android is open-source" that is not what they have in mind. In practice Android is open source like OSX is open source (Darwin), sure you get the foundations of a great system, but none of the shiny bits. So rather than a walled garden, you have a fenced garden. If you want freedom you need to look at Firefox and Ubuntu.

        Have a look at the following doc for detailled discussion: http://arstechnica.com/informa... [arstechnica.com]

        • Wow, I didn't realise so much had been moved into the Google box from the Android box as time went on. Still, Amazon have produced an Android device without any of Google's bits, but its primarily an Ereader.
        • Oh, ease up on the hyperbole. There is no comparison between Darwin (the OSS part of Mac OS X) which is a bare bones GUI-less Unix-type OS, and AOSP (the OSS part of Android) which is a fully fledged entirely usable mobile operating system. You would not buy a computer intending to use it as your main desktop knowing it can only run Darwin. You might well buy a phone or tablet running AOSP however intending it to be your main phone or tablet. And people do.

          What Google Play Services provides is:

          - An ap

          • by jrumney (197329)

            An additional set of APIs which exists primarily as a compatibility layer between different versions of Android

            And also access to Google services, which are used by more third party apps than you realize. How many apps have you seen that use your Google login for authentication? Even if it is optional with alternate login methods available, many of those apps are written with the assumption that the Google APIs exist, and will crash on devices that don't have them. There's also Cloud Messaging and additi

    • by DdJ (10790)

      Wasn't Android derived from Linux?

      Not in the sense you probably mean, no.

      The Android kernel is a Linux kernel. That part is true. But, a Linux kernel is far from sufficient for building an Android device or running Android apps.

      Google is not placing these restrictions on that part. The use of the Linux kernel does not spread virus-like to random other components of the distribution, so has pretty much no bearing on the stuff under discussion.

      In practice, Android is not very open right now, and is very de

    • by alen (225700)

      anyone can download and fork android
      anyone except those licensing google apps and if you do license google apps you can't put any other third party search or location services other than google
      and downloading android does not make an android phone since you still need to write drivers and ship it with some services for a user to use the device

    • While Android is open source, with you being able to use it as you please, their apps and services are not open source, and if you would like to use them, you'll need to sign their licensing agreement, which includes the limitations stated in the summary.

  • Time Bombs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chaim79 (898507) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:10PM (#46239549) Homepage

    Google calls out implanting "any viruses, worms, date bombs, time bombs, or other code that is specifically designed to cause the Google Applications to cease operating" as being banned in approved devices.

    It's both interesting and very sad that this has to be spelled out in a license agreement, makes me think that they've run into OEMs purposefully building 'bombs' to keep people buying new phones.

  • "Open"

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They're open as in the design, not open as in your mom's legs.

      • by CCarrot (1562079)

        They're open as in the design, not open as in your mom's legs.

        How droll. Witty repartee aside, would you care to explain exactly how mandatory design and operating restrictions make this an 'open' design?

        Basically, Google is saying that nobody gets to place restrictions on their toys...except them, of course.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      They are open. In fact, if you got off the high horse, brushed the chip off your shoulders, and then read those agreement you might note that this is actually a very good thing.

      They are taking step to prevent the manufacturers from using the apps to limit the users.

      Remember, it' about apps, not android.

    • People complain when there's fragmentation, people complain when there's an effort to prevent it.

      The platform is still open, but Google's services and ownership of the Play store is not. You can make an Android phone, fork it and do whatever you want, but if you want to run it on the Play store and Google Maps, whatever, you have to agree to the rules. Those rules, by the way, do a hell of alot to standardise and make the platform stable for developers.

      Some people won't be happy until everything is complete

      • Re:Hey, Google... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CCarrot (1562079) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @03:04PM (#46240055)

        People complain when there's fragmentation, people complain when there's an effort to prevent it.

        The platform is still open, but Google's services and ownership of the Play store is not. You can make an Android phone, fork it and do whatever you want, but if you want to run it on the Play store and Google Maps, whatever, you have to agree to the rules. Those rules, by the way, do a hell of alot to standardise and make the platform stable for developers.

        Some people won't be happy until everything is completely gratis and uncontrolled, and we'll end up with the same mess we had with Symbian.

        Fair enough, at least for the 'no forking' stipulation, but the whole requirement to pre-install all google apps if one only wants access to, say, the Play Store? And the mandatory submission of *very* granular sales data? How, exactly, do these stipulations contribute to platform stability?

        I fail to see how it is different from the whole hullabaloo with Microsoft and Internet Explorer [wikipedia.org], the outcome of which was:

        Lawsuits brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, 18 states, and the District of Columbia in two separate actions were resolved through a Consent Decree that took effect in 2001 and a Final Judgment entered in 2002. These proceedings imposed various constraints on our Windows operating system businesses. These constraints include limits on certain contracting practices, mandated disclosure of certain software program interfaces and protocols, and rights for computer manufacturers to limit the visibility of certain Windows features in new PCs. We believe we are in full compliance with these rules. However, if we fail to comply with them, additional restrictions could be imposed on us that would adversely affect our business.

        So, here we see MS originally taking the hard-line approach, then being forced to allow vendors to 'bury' Windows-specific features in favor of their own offerings. True, most new Windows PCs still ship with IE pre-installed and ready to go, but it's no longer up to MS to dictate that it shall be so.

  • So this is going to make Nokia doing an Android device even more awkward when Microsoft finishes the purchase.

    Because no way in hell Microsoft are going to want that.

    • by technomom (444378)

      Yup. It's also going to make life more difficult for Amazon and Samsung. But to me, this is a plus for most people who use the Android product, at least in the US.

      It says that Samsung can't put its crap SVoice in place of Google Voice Search or ChatOn in place of Hangouts as defaults if they also want to include YouTube or the Play Store. It pretty much says that Amazon will have to buy into Google apps lock, stock, and barrel if it ever wants to bring back Google Search or enable Google Maps on Kind

  • by queazocotal (915608) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:27PM (#46239701)

    http://www.jolla.com/ [jolla.com] - for example - is one example of a vendor selling a phone that can run android apps - on top of 'normal' linux - without preinstalling the normal google play market. (because they can't - as what they are doing in making the linux side more open means it's not vanilla android anymore)

    • Ouch. I don't been to be a downer, because I love competition and consumer choice, especially in the computing market.

      But, I gotta say. This "other half" gimmick is about the most idiotic thing I have ever seen. Trying to sell themes, backgrounds, etc., by manufacturing hardware backs with RFID chips? Seriously?

      Phone! I'm in a bad mood. "Applying bad mood theme. Done."

      Or am I missing something?

  • Slow day? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aergern (127031) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @02:31PM (#46239725)

    Why is this news? This has been known for a very, very long time.

    Android is Android and Google apps are Google's apps.

    I guess folks really are as stupid as they appear.

  • I use Android. I think the Maps app is pretty good. I like it. That's the one I would miss.

    Other than that.. nothing. There just aren't any Google apps or services(*) which matter. I think OEMs are over-agonizing on this. Just don't sign the contract, and your phone will be nearly as good as all your competitors in most ways, and better in other ways.

    When people say "Android isn't really free, because..." please don't finish your sentence with a list of pretty much worthless (or trivially-replaced)

    • by robmv (855035)

      The Play Store, it is the #1 application OEMs need, unless you are a Chinese OEM where you have a big market with established alternative stores. And Android device without the Play Store is like a Windows Phone without applications. Amazon store is a joke for OEMs because it is only available in selected markets and with the current economics of hardware manufacturing, you win money only at large scales, selling only on Amazon markets will not work for them

    • by mspohr (589790)

      Here's a list of about 100 Android apps which use Open Street Map...
      http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/... [openstreetmap.org]

      And, of course, navigation:
      https://play.google.com/store/... [google.com]

      • I tried Google Maps a bit, and then switched to OSMAnd. It was about the only Google app I used, although I don't know if the Android Browser is developed anymore now that Google has shifted all of their focus to Chrome. I would love to be able to get a reasonable Android phone with F-Droid installed as the default market and no Google stuff.
      • (Thanks.) Not surprising; I've just been lazy, I guess. So... yeeeah. I probably wouldn't miss Google much. Their cooperation really does look totally optional and expendible, from the PoV of a user of the platform. Not that I'm ungrateful for commodotizing mobile OSes (thanks, Google). But anti-trust? Oh, please. The people getting their panties in a bunch about these agreements, need to take a chill pill.
    • by hax4bux (209237)

      Google maps will not work without Google Play

      • There's alternatives to Google Maps out there for Android. There are alternate app stores as well. You don't have to deal with Google's mind numbing tracking of your every action but it's not as "convenient" as some people would like.

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