Et tu, Google? The CyanogenMod issue gets a resolution [commentary]

September 27, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka

Android Hacks, Android OS, Featured post

Et tu, Google? The CyanogenMod issue gets a resolution [commentary]

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Caesar had a tragic realization in his waning moments. As he lay covered in blood and struggling for air, Caesar looked up and saw his friend Brutus among his attackers. “Et tu, Brute?” (You too, Brutus?) he asked.

Thousands of angry Android users now believe they are Caesar and Google is Brutus. The company they once championed has become the backstabbing turncoat who betrayed “the spirit of Open Source” and blocked Cyanogen from including their apps in his popular custom ROM’s. There’s only one problem with the narrative: Google isn’t Brutus and Android users didn’t get treated nearly as bad as Caesar.

Google sent Cyanogen, the most popular and recognized custom ROM builder, a cease-and-desist order because his ROM’s include Google-owned apps that are licensed with certain rules attached. Google says that they own apps like Google Maps, GMail, etc., and only licensed parties are allowed to distribute them. This effectively makes Cyanogen’s — and practically every other ROM developer’s — work illegal if they distribute Google apps. Cyanogen has announced a way that he will workaround this issue, but it creates an annoying hurdle for independent developers and more than 30,000 Cyanogen users to overcome.

If you seek comment from Andrew Kameka, rooted G1 owner and Cyanogen fan/user, his first reaction will be to tell you that this is a dick move on Google’s part. But Andrew Kameka, level-headed adult, will say Google was perfectly within its rights. They own the apps and have a legal right to determine how its creations are distributed.

Regardless of what you think Open Source means, every open source project has licensing issues. As peeved as I may be that the rooting community has been given a huge headache, the boys and girls in Mountain View did what they thought was best for their company and their project.

I’ll take on the unenviable task of defending Google and say that extreme actions of rooted users are understandable but excessive. “Google has turned into Apple!” they scream. Hardly. Google is a company that blocked one developer from using their apps in his unauthorized work. Meanwhile, Apple routinely blocks or cripples apps and features that iPhone users want. Two sides of a coin they are not.

“Screw Google, I’m getting an iPhone!” others have cried. Good luck. If you’re ticked off about Google’s actions, wait until you get accustomed to Apple’s antics. I can understand switching to iPhone because Android doesn’t meet your needs, but if this incident sends you over the edge, you haven’t seen anything yet. Send me a postcard and keep me updated of how things are going.

Google’s sudden decision to block Cyanogen was not fun or good for anyone involved in Android. Thousands of users have a new inconvenience to using what made them love the platform even more, and Google has ticked off thousands of its consumer base and advocates. The only winner here is the chuckling iPhone fan who says, “Now you know how we feel.”

Put things in perspective, folks. Cyanogen will still be releasing ROM’s. Google isn’t stopping him from doing that. We’ll just have to work harder to get those ROM’s and install the Google apps we love.

I want Google to change course and let Cyanogen and other ROM cookers continue their work. There’s nothing nefarious and they give users choice, which is the reason Android is such a great platform. However, I think its time for angry Android users to do what I did: huff, puff, and realize this is Google’s house. They have a right to dictate how guests behave. You, the paying consumer, have the right to reject those rules and go elsewhere, but remember the alternatives before you do.