Earlier this week we learned that location-based services company Skyhook is suing Google for patent infringement and business interference. Skyhook claims Google demanded that Motorola not ship their Android handsets with Skyhook’s software, and according to Engadget shipment of Motorola’s Droid X was delayed due Google’s demands.
Much of the information gleamed from Skyhook’s suit is germaine to discussions about just how open is Android. Skyhook claims that Google arbitrarily decides what handsets have access to the Android Market and Google apps, both of which require licensing with Google. Engadget points out that Google has never been clear about what is needed for handsets to have access to the Android Market. Microsoft has made similar arguments stating that handset manufacturer’s costs for Android are greater than what the $15 per license Microsoft will charge for Windows Phone 7 because of the threat of patent infringement and customization costs.
In a post for TechCrunch, MG Siegler takes on the topic of Android’s openness. In another post Siegler asks, if Apple’s exclusive deal to make the iPhone only for AT&T is not the reason why Android’s sales are increasing dramatically, what is? Siegler says many people responded that Android’s “openness” is the reason, to which he says, “what a load of crap.”
The increased attacks on Google by companies like Skyhook and Microsoft coupled with an increasing negative tone towards Android on tech blogs is evidence to me that Android is nearly at the top of the mobile phone market. Companies don’t spend time and money attacking others unless they feel threatened. Likewise, we tend to tear down companies at the top particularly if they appear to be hypocritical. Claiming that Android is not as open as many think is a argument against hypocrisy but it means nothing about the quality of the product.
I believe the majority of people who buy Android handsets have no clue that it is comprised of open source software, nor are they making their purchase decision based on “openness.” People are buying more Android handsets because they are available from their mobile phone company while the iPhone is not. Others are probably buying Android handsets because they are cheaper than the iPhone or that they believe the iPhone is for “elites.” Some people might even be buying Android handsets because they think they look better and can do more than the iPhone.