Core Android Development Opens a Bit More But Unlikely to Open Fully

The Register shares some news from the search giant around a baby step towards being a bit more open with its mobile platform and rationale for holding back some development, keeping it private. The part of the platform that will be more open to contribution will be the native development kit (NDK). Incoming code, at some yet to be set date, will flow into the public source tree rather than into Google’s private tree as it does now.

The announcement was part of remarks by Android open-source and compatibility program manager Dan Morrill at OSCON, the open source conference sponsored by O’Reilly that has been going on this week. Morrill went on to explain that the delay of source releases to the community is undertaken for reasons of risk management.

Google wants to retain competitive advantage and prevent a scenario where OEMs ship unfinished source code on phones with disastrous consequences for developers and end users as their code breaks or applications downloaded from the Android Market fail to work.

According to Google, this has nearly happened before when one unnamed OEM wanted to start shipping pre-release the Android 1.5 – codenamed Cupcake – on its phones.

It is unlikely that Google will change its stance on this approach, despite criticism form the broader open source community. It is an odd balance to maintain given how inclusive Google has been otherwise with its mobile development platform.

Not surprisingly, The Register has further news from OSCON of some of the friction between Android and the open source community. In this instance, the Linux kernel maintainers have proposed three options Google could pursue with its kernel modifications to have them accepted back into the fold of main kernel development. In this instance, there is evidence of goodwill on both sides, the stumbling block may simply be coordination of kernel releases and code updates. Hopefully some good will come of it yet.

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