Maggie Shiels

Google throws down open source gauntlet

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 22 Sep 08, 13:26 GMT

Google founder Larry Page wants the world to know that he and the company are serious about open source, unlike others who shall remain nameless. Alas for this reporter all I got for my attempts to dare the man to out any of these companies was a stare and a hint of a "Yeah right!" But if you don't ask...

AndroidThe issue came up at a "round table" meeting he, CEO Eric Schmidt and fellow co-founder Sergey Brin held with reporters at the firm's Mountain View offices.

"They are not serious about it from our perspective," said Mr Page about other companies who declare the code behind their products as truly open source but limit access via a "variety of licensing terms".

"We are actually serious about it," stressed Mr Page.

"We like Linux. We use Linux to build our products and [it] has been a great high for us that they can be adapted and used."

The reason the issue came up was because of chatter about Google's new Android phone which gets released in New York on Tuesday.

The phone, which is rumoured to have a touch screen and a trackball, has been created using code which is open source.

Google is throwing a lot of support behind third party developers who want to create applications for the phone and is sponsoring a developer challenge with a total of $10m (£5.5m) in prizes for the best apps.

The hot favourites are said to include cab4me which lets users order taxis with a single click on their phones and Ecorio which automatically tracks a user's carbon footprint. Both have just scooped $275,000 (£153,000) in the second heat of the contest.

The founders have said the way they have approached the Android project is proof positive of their open source credentials. And Sergey Brin said that commitment has resulted in others following in their footsteps.

"Another effect of Android is with the Nokia announcement with Symbian. They're going to 'open source' that. That's already progress from our point of view."

(I am sure there are some who would like the company to be as open when it comes to the issue of privacy, for which they have long been lambasted.)

But Mr Brin believes this is a train that will have more companies climbing on board. "I expect there will be others taking that code and producing phones without us."

Mr Page sees things in slightly loftier terms.

"With Android and Chrome we really are trying to do things differently that will be good for the world and good for technology in general and get a lot more innovation."

While there will be a fair bit of attention on the Android phone this week, those with eagle eyes at the round table got the chance to have a very quick peek when Larry flashed his phone briefly.

The tease!


  • Comment number 1.

    I can't wait for Android; I've been following the development quite closely for over a year.
    It'll be ages before I actually think about running Android on any hardware, but I am still very interested in how it pans out and the impact it will have on the industry as a whole.

  • Comment number 2.

    Google's logical next steps: an open source IDE and an OS. When are these coming?

  • Comment number 3.

    Google still trying to look the darlings of the open source world

    whilst single handedly trying to be master of the internet
    providing the backbone, the browser, the tracking (google analytics) the advertising, the means of creating content (picasa, docs suite, apps etc...) and being the gate keeper to all this content with their search engine...

    Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

    The way they are going about it, carrying all the content, creating all the content, gathering as much info about users as they can without gaining bad-press

    On their way to being the microsoft of the web age!!!

    Oh, but at least they support open source!

  • Comment number 4.

    It's about time they released an open source operating system. I'm already a big fan of Linux, but if Google released their own version of it or made a completely new platform, almost all of the major software developers would start writing software for it, I'm sure.

    I bet it would be really good, too. When have Google ever made a bad product?

  • Comment number 5.

    ^ I was referring to a desktop/laptop PC operating system, not a mobile operating system, just to clarify.

  • Comment number 6.

    >When have Google ever made a bad product?

    That would be gmail. A lacklustre, feature poor webmail client.

    just as well it's free, because who would pay for it?

    For how good webmail can look and work, simply look at the competition - Yahoo's webmail or Microsoft's Outlook Web Access.

    Google make great search products, but the other efforts are pretty poor.

  • Comment number 7.

    Did Google really throw the gauntlet on open source code ? I'd love to believe them !! Am all eyes to see their search engine open sourced !! Am I askin for freakin too much ? Well then, can we please start with their privacy protection policies? Can they open source that ?

    Google knows how to make money from Linux and all that is open source. No surprise that for almost all that you search on Google, it is the open source, free wikipedia most often tops the search result, if not being in the top 3. And Google makes the money. Clever. Clearly. And no grouse on that.

    But Google claiming to be egalitarian by supporting open source sounds a bit like if KFC claimed they value the rights of chicken.

  • Comment number 8.

    > That would be gmail. A lacklustre, feature poor webmail client.

    I think you're missing the point of Gmail (and indeed all Google products): They don't do a lot, but what they do, they do very, very well. You say "feature poor", I say "streamlined".

  • Comment number 9.

    Google keeps talking about open source in terms of neat little consumer app, but it’s the business space where there’s real money to be made. Android, iPhone, and of course, Symbian’s decision to go open source, are kick-starting more rapid innovation in the mobile space - making it easier for developers to get on-board and start creating new mobile applications.

    But you have to ask the question: what’s going to make more money – an application that lets someone order a cab with greater ease, or a field service application capable of doubling the productivity of a 3,000 strong mobile workforce? The sooner that companies like Google make a noise about mobile business apps, the quicker telcos will get on-board and make it happen, which will I’m sure help to drive jazzy consumer apps as well


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