Swizzling Android

September 5, 2012

When Amazon rolled out the Kindle Fire, I wondered if Amazon and Google were best pals. Amazon’s Kindle Fire worked with the Amazon download system and the programs worked on the Kindle Fire. We bought a couple of Kindle Fires and figured out that Amazon had used Android but veered into the wilds of the Amazon technical forest.

When I was in China, there were quite a few Android phones available. I had not seen most of these. I quite liked the four SIM devices which I wrote about in one of my for fee columns. (You can see most of these on my LinkedIn profile page, but you will have to go through a free registration process to see the list of write ups.)

Google has made Android open source, so variation, flavors, forks, and knock offs are part of the program. No big deal, I thought, because Google is a giant outfit, able to beat Oracle in court and stuffed with money and wizards.

Then I read “RoMOS Is Russia’s Take on Android OS, Shields Users from Google’s Prying Eyes.” Quite a headline, replete with innuendo in the phrase “Google’s prying eyes” and the SEO charged references to Russia and Android. Here’s the passage which caught my attention:

Unveiled at IFA in Berlin, the Russian Mobile Operating System or RoMOS reportedly mimics the look and feel of Android and works with Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System. The OS is scheduled to debut in tablet form by the end of the year, though RoMOS’ project manager says it can serve as a smartphone operating system, too. The main customers for RoMOS will reportedly be the country’s military, which has always had concerns about data collected by Google from Russian devices falling into US government hands.

Why not use Android and get with the Google program? My hunch is that the possibility of monitoring or some other security concern is not mere public relations baloney. Will other countries use Android in this way? Will a large US telco just follow in the footsteps of Russia and create a version of Android which is proprietary.

Walled gardens, despite the election rhetoric, are a major part of 21st century business strategy. Will these gizmos run the Android games, apps, and malware? Will these hypothetical devices connect to other networks?

One meaning of the word “fork” is “to pay.” Hmmm.

Stephen E Arnold, September 5, 2012

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