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Google’s control over the open source Android

Six years ago, in November 2007, the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) was announced. The original iPhone came out just a few months earlier, capturing people’s imaginations and ushering in the modern smartphone era. While Google was an app partner for the original iPhone, it could see what a future of unchecked iPhone competition would be like. Google was terrified that Apple would end up ruling the mobile space. So, to help in the fight against the iPhone at a time when Google had no mobile foothold whatsoever, Android was launched as an open source project. Android went from zero percent of the smartphone market to owning nearly 80 percent of it. Android has arguably won the smartphone wars, but “Android winning” and “Google winning” are not necessarily the same thing. Since Android is open source, it doesn’t really “belong” to Google. This is the biggest danger to Google’s current position: a successful, alternative Android distribution. The most successful, high-profile alternative version of Android is Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Amazon takes AOSP, skips all the usual Google add-ons, and provides its own app store, content stores, browser, cloud storage, and e-mail. As does the entire country of China, who banns basically anything Google. Google has decided it needs more control over the public source code. For some of these apps, there might still be an AOSP equivalent, but as soon as the proprietary version was launched, all work on the AOSP version was stopped.

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