Et tu, Google?

And Google joins the “you carry our phone in your pocket, but we still own it” club:

CNet reports on Google’s decision to nix a tethering application for its G1 phone from the Android Market. I can only wonder if this is the first in a series of arbitrary moves similar to those Apple has made.

I am almost as suspicious of Google with regard to Android as I am of Apple and its iPhone. Whether intentionally or not, Google is misleading people by advertising its use of Linux, the kernel, in Android. However, from what I have read, Android is not a GNU variant. The SDK also contains non-free software; Google also makes heavy use of the term “open source” and I believe this is an attempt to deceive in light of the presence of non-free software in the SDK.

Note these section of the EULA for the Android SDK:

3.2 You agree that Google or third parties own all legal right, title and interest in and to the SDK, including any Intellectual Property Rights that subsist in the SDK. “Intellectual Property Rights” means any and all rights under patent law, copyright law, trade secret law, trademark law, and any and all other proprietary rights. Google reserves all rights not expressly granted to you.

3.3 Except to the extent required by applicable third party licenses, you may not copy (except for backup purposes), modify, adapt, redistribute, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, or create derivative works of the SDK or any part of the SDK. Except to the extent required by applicable third party licenses, you may not load any part of the SDK onto a mobile handset or any other hardware device except a personal computer, combine any part of the SDK with other software, or distribute any software or device incorporating a part of the SDK.

This looks an awful lot like it came straight out of a Microsoft or Apple EULA to me with merely a search-and-replace in the first line.

The potential for confusion surrounding Google’s use of the term “Linux” here is is a great example of the dangers of incorrectly using “Linux” to refer to the entire operating system instead of just the kernel. It is also a great example of why one must read carefully to ensure that a given software release is in fact free software lock, stock, and barrel and not to just treat “open source” as magic words. Given that Google packages non-free software with the SDK, I believe it best to treat the entire Android operating system as non-free.

The moral of the story? Don’t be fooled: on a broader scale, Android is just like the iPhone OS. If one uses an Android phone, one is trusting Google, a company that has had its share of criticism on more than one occasion.

“Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” –The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”