A Deal With the Devil

After yesterday’s post questioning Google’s commitment to open source Android, I found this piece Ars Technica published by J.M. Porup about yet another startup focusing on making Android more secure:

Copperhead OS, a two-man team based in Toronto, ships a hardened version of Android that aims to integrate Grsecurity and PaX into their distribution. Their OS also includes numerous security enhancements

I’ve been wondering – as Google keeps moving their support to proprietary alternatives while others in the open source community develop potentially competing solutions as part of the Open Android Source Project, at what point does the OS that ships with Google Play cease being “Android”? My assumption was that an OS that ran mostly on Google’s proprietary code couldn’t legitimately be called “Android”. Then I read this (emphasis mine):

Google’s power over OEMs—such as Samsung or Motorola, who manufacture and sell Android handsets—consists solely of the Android license and access to the Google Play Store.

Sure enough, I had forgotten that Google owns the Android name just as much as they own Google Play. From the AOSP Brand Guidelines:

The “Android” name, the Android logo, the “Google Play” brand, and other trademarks are property of Google Inc. and not part of the assets available through the Android Open Source Project.

“Sure you can use this for non-Google products, but good luck communicating an otherwise nameless project. Oh, and if your little not-Android-thing encroaches on our business in any way, we’ll walk and do our own proprietary thing, and that proprietary thing will still be called ‘Android’.”

Android isn’t a choice. It’s an ultimatum.

Lastly, I want to point out this bit of sentiment from the Ars piece, which Porup credits to Chris Soghoian of the ACLU:

Google did a deal with the devil for market share, says Soghoian, who has described the current parlous state of Android security as a human rights issue. By giving Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and wireless carriers control over the end-user experience, Google allowed handset manufacturers to find ways to differentiate their products, and wireless carriers to disable features they thought would threaten their business model.

Did Google do the deal with the devil or is it the other way around?