Android, Google, and Free software

One thing must be admitted about Google and Android: that the PR effort aimed at making Android appear as a system based on free/open software has been hugely successful. Indeed, I am ever more amused at the number of non-technical-savvy people that candidly tell me: “I prefer Android, because it is free.”

I know that iOS vs. Android is a huge debate – you could call it the “iOS-Android wars”, or “Apple-Google wars” – and that some parts of Android are actually free; but what strikes me is human ability to fool oneself into believing that in a “one-big-corp vs. another-big-corp war” there might be a side which is better than another.

There is no better, or worse, just different.

Take this letter that Google sent to the IEEE regarding how Google will go about all the patents it acquired by buying Motorola (notably, H.264 and UMTS related); and read, also there, the reasoning leading Florian Mueller to state: “Google is basically saying that it will do exactly what Motorola is already doing now.”

Patents are obviously a completely different matter than copyright. Still, it is true that the biggest menace to Free Software nowadays is the way patents are assigned and enforced (another war is ongoing here).

So why think that a big-corp is better? There is not better or worse, just different.

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