Android's much-vaunted "open source" credentials do not mean the OS is "open", researchers have suggested, finding that Google's platform is actually severely lacking in comparison to other open-source software. Google's refusal to release a public roadmap, unilinear development decisions and "closed contributions process model" all leave it behind rivals like MeeGo and Symbian, VisionMobile concludes, with Android's success being attributed more to Google's deep pockets and a general fear of Apple dominance than anything else.
VisionMobile looked at Android, Qt, Symbian, MeeGo, Mozilla, WebKit, Linux and Eclipse, ranking the eight projects on a so-called Open Governance Index. Google's platform scored just 23-percent, less than half what Qt - in seventh position - managed. At the top end, Eclipse scored 84-percent, being praised for its transparency in decision making and corporate structure, among other factors.
1. Access: availability of the latest source code, developer support mechanisms, public roadmap, and transparency of decision-making
2. Development: the ability of developers to influence the content and direction of the project
3. Derivatives: the ability for developers to create and distribute derivatives of the source code in the form of spin-off projects, handsets or applications.
4. Community: a community structure that does not discriminate between developers
The researchers save some scathing words for the Open Handset Alliance, too, billed as the governing body of Android but now, they argue, a toothless rubber-stamping committee that serves as little beyond a way of keeping OEMs corralled:
"Visibility to the roadmap is limited, as there is no Android roadmap publicly available. In fact, development of the Android private branch and the roadmap is controlled by Google, with little input from external parties or the Open Handset Alliance members. When launched, the Open Handset Alliance served the purpose of a public industry endorsement for Android. Today, however, the OHA serves little purpose besides a stamp of approval for OHA members; there is no formal legal entity, no communication processes for members nor frequent member meetings" VisionMobile
Google's "unilateral Android project decision-making processes," as the report phrases it, have been commented on before, with allegations that the company is enforcing stricter policies toward manufacturers modifying the platform in the name of anti-fragmentation. That, Android chief Andy Rubin argues, is FUD, pointing merely to the set of compliance standards that OEMs must observe if they want to use Google's suite of apps such as Gmail.