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Why blaming Google is the easy way out.

I am not sure how many of you listen to the Android Guys Thursday Night Droid-cast, but if you were not listening last night, grab listen over here. Steve Kondik, aka Cyanogen, was on the show last night, and immediately before the show was addressing an article written by Nilay Patel of Engadget. Nilay called into the cast, and the conversation that followed was pretty intense. I highly recommend the listen. Unfortunately, Nilay was not really in the mood to hear anyone but himself talk, so rather than give my piece of mind during the cast, I am going to address him here.

The basic argument is that Google should be doing more to force hardware manufacturers and carriers to perpetuate their statement of openness. This realization was made after the rocket scientist took a review unit from Motorola, the Droid X, and bricked his phone after trying to flash back to 2.1 in order to get the real 2.2 update. Nilay was all about pointing fingers in his article. He blamed Moto for not paying engineers to make a separate update to bring the people who took it upon themselves an engineers copy of 2.2, which was incomplete, to the legit copy of 2.2. He blamed Moto for not having software available to modders which will reset the phone back to stock, after messing with the device. Finally, he blamed Google, for not forcing their hardware partners to adhere to a set of standards that would allow the same level of modding seen on Google’s Dev phones, removing market access to any that fail to comply.

Let’s start the party. Hardware manufacturers, like most companies, have a goal in life. That goal, for the most part, is to make money. It’s weird, I know. It turns out that most people are not like Nilay Patel. Most people will not scour XDA for all the information they can find about making their phones do some awesome. It turns out, most people will read half of one page, download an installer, and start pressing buttons. The end result in that case is usually not good. So here you sit, with a bricked phone. You aren’t like Nilay Patel, where you have a few phones given to you for free by manufacturers. This is your only phone, and you paid that $200 for the subsidy. So you take a second look at that page and realize you skipped a step or two… but you gotta have a phone. So what do you do? Obviously you take the phone back into your carrier and tell them that you have no idea how this happened, but you need to use that insurance to get a replacement phone. Who did that just cost? Did Google just pay for that? Oh, right, it’s the carriers and the manufacturers. Now, I’m not siding with the manufacturers. I think they do some messed up things to “secure” their devices. What I am saying, however, is that when you cost the carriers and manufacturers money by messing with their phones, they will respond by trying to limit their cost. If you take it upon yourself to install a rom that has comments all over it saying that certain things do not work, and you already know that Moto has no plans to encourage you to flash this rom, you had better know what you are doing.

Now, blaming Google? That’s just pathetic. Google makes the Android OS, and releases AOSP for anyone who wants to mess with it, and make it their own. Google is in no way responsible for the devices manufacturers use to load software, as it’s completely unrelated to the operating system itself. Now, Nilay’s counter argument was to bring up Archos. Archos, and many other devices, run Android, but have not been certified for the Market. Nilay continues to complain that Google has no standards for what it takes in order to certify a device. Combined with the empty statement about SkyHook, empty because no one knows what is going on with that situation yet, it was clear that he was just grasping at straws after Steve started to argue back. Google’s standards are not published anywhere, this is true, and they probably should be. However, my contact with Samsung assured me that there is, in fact, a set of software tests that every device sent to Google for consideration.

The bottom line is there are things that have to be put in place in order to ensure the average users can still use the phone, and the slightly above average users aren’t swapping phones every other day after bricking them. Now, I do have my issues the warrantee being affected by rooting the device, and had Nilay brought that up I would have agreed, but it’s pretty hard to blame anyone but yourself when you install something that starts with:

#include <std_disclaimer.h>
 * Your warranty is now void.
 * I am not responsible for bricked devices, dead SD cards,
 * thermonuclear war, or you getting fired because the alarm app failed. Please
 * do some research if you have any concerns about features included in this ROM
 * before flashing it! YOU are choosing to make these modifications, and if
 * you point the finger at me for messing up your device, I will laugh at you.

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