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Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary

ArsTechnica - Android is open—except for all the good parts. 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. Vic Gundotra, recalling Andy Rubin's initial pitch for Android, stated:

He argued that if Google did not act, we faced a Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice.

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.

In that era, Google had nothing, so any adoption—any shred of market share—was welcome. Google decided to give Android away for free and use it as a trojan horse for Google services. The thinking went that if Google Search was one day locked out of the iPhone, people would stop using Google Search on the desktop. Android was the "moat" around the Google Search "castle"—it would exist to protect Google's online properties in the mobile world.

Today, things are a little different. 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. Anyone is free to take it, clone the source, and create their own fork or alternate version.