pyehouse
8Sep/110

Google, Red Handed and Red Faced

Now making the rounds are comments surrounding the internal Google documents revealed in the Oracle v Google case. The bits that seem to have everyone's interest aroused concern two things. The pertinent bullet points from the discovered document are as follows:

  • Do not develop in the open. Instead, make source code available after innovation is complete
  • Lead device concept: Give early access to the software to partners who build and distribute devices to our specification (ie, Motorola and Verizon). They get a non-contractual time to market advantage and in return they align to our standard.

A lot of time and attention is being given to these statements, making Google out to be hypocritical or as having less than savory business practices. The fact is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these practices.

The first bullet point, concerning not developing in the open, is innocuous. There's nothing evil going on here. There's nothing about open source or openness in general that requires your code repository be visible 24x7 for all the world to see. If you want to stay in the coding cave and do your development (or innovate as Google puts it), only releasing the fruits of your labor when they are ripe and bursting with innovative goodness, that is your prerogative. I suspect it's the word choice that has folks up in arms here but conceptually this is the same thing as the guy working on a new device driver to tack onto the Linux kernel, not releasing it until it's feature complete. Really, it's just not a big deal.

The second bullet point, concerning early access to partners who abide by Google's standards, is a bit more interesting, but nonetheless does not rise to the level of being 'wrong'. Perhaps a bit embarrassing and maybe even damaging now that it's out in the open, but not wrong. If Google is developing a codebase and wants partners to adhere to their standards as a precondition of early access, isn't that their right? Is there anything indicating they absolutely must provide access to everyone, equally? Most open source licenses simply indicate what is involved in the relationship between the developer and the recipient of the code. It has nothing to do with any other relationships. Should Google have done this? Probably not from where they're sitting now, but at the time it was a calculated risk. Were they able to offer something in exchange for partners abiding by the vision Google had for the Android platform? What were the chances of it becoming public knowledge? How damaging would it be? Unfortunately for Google they may be about to find out. For my part? *meh*