Google’s Recent Huawei Ban Makes a Strong Case For Open Source Software

Except for iOS in Apple devices the mobile OS market used to be very fragmented. Nokia had Symbian, Samsung had Bada and Blackberry rocked BlackBerry OS. Then came the formation of the Open Handset Alliance by Google, HTC, Sony and a few other manufacturers and Android 1.0 was born.

Android really shaped up well thanks to Google and the phenomenal Dev community behind it. Android was also lauded for having a very open ecosystem that didn’t bias between manufacturers. Anyone could ship devices with Android, but licensing was required for Google Play services, which include Google’s suite of Apps like Gmail and Maps

So Is Android Really Open Source?

Reuters Recently reported, “Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software, and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing“. This means new Huawei and Honor phones will lose access to Google Play services. They can still use Android OS without Play services.

Coming back to the original question, yes Android is open source but the experience isn’t great without Play services. For one you lose notification access as that uses Google Play services, also a ton of other apps use Play services to run. Open Android also loses out on Widewine L1 support, which is required for full HD Playback on Netflix and Prime Video.

This really shows the need for truly Open Source alternatives that are accessible by everyone. With IP’s there are limitations and in times like these, end users are the ones affected. Google is not at fault here, their engineers have actually committed a lot to the AOSP project, but its the manufacturers who have been less than enthusiastic about it.

All is not gloom as current users using Huawei devices will still get updates. Huawei mentioned in a statement “Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally“, so it seems products in stock will also get the usual support. Other US tech companies like Intel and Qualcomm will also need to comply with the Denial Order issued by the US Department of Commerce, so the hit isn’t limited to Huawei’s smartphone business. Hopefully, the ban will be lifted before Huawei’s current stocks deplete.

Although this event does make a strong case for open source software and hardware and why it should lead future development. You can follow the AOSP project here.

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