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Android’s Next Big Competitor: Google

Over the past three years, Google’s Android operating system has grabbed a major share of the global smartphone market. But there’s more than one flavor of Android out there, and Google is increasingly finding one flavor being pitted against the other.

In one corner is the truly open-source Android, which falls under the purview of Google’s Android Open Source Project (AOSP). When Google launched the project in November 2007, it had no foothold in the emerging smartphone market, so anything it could do to give its position a jumpstart against the likes of Apple, Windows and Symbian made sense.

In the other corner is Android One, the initiative launched by Google last month that takes aim at the 5 billion-plus people in the world who still don’t have smartphones. Unlike with the open-source Android, Android One is controlled by Google, which will automatically provide users with updates, security patches and other fixes as they become available. Google says Android One offers adopters the advantage of reduced costs for customization and testing, which will help manufacturers produce smartphones that are more affordable to those in developing economies. What Android One isn’t, though, is open source.

‘Closed-Source Creep’

This is hardly the first time Google has attempted to keep a tighter grip on Android since unleashing the open-source version on the world seven years ago. Android OS followers such as Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo have described the company’s approach as “closed-source creep.”

“When Android had no market share, Google was comfortable keeping just these apps and building the rest of Android as an open source project,” Amadeo wrote late last year in an article titled, “Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary.” “Since Android has become a mobile powerhouse though, Google has decided it needs more control over the public source code.”

As Amadeo noted, the rise of Android as an OS was accompanied by some users taking the best of Android without any of Google’s add-ons. Amazon, for example, adopted AOSP for its Kindle Fire but created its own apps and services to go on top of it. China, too, “skips the Google part of Android,” he wrote.

“Most Google services are banned, so the only option there is an alternate version,” Amadeo wrote. “In both of these cases, Google’s Android code is used, and it gets nothing for it.”

Android Version of ‘Spy vs. Spy’?

The release of Android One would appear to be Google’s next attempt to ensure it gets something more than “nothing” from companies that adopt the Android OS, which today enjoys an 85-percent share of the world smartphone OS market, according to industry research firm IDC. (continued…)

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