Google Discusses Cease & Desist Order to CyanogenMod

Google just penned a lengthy post regarding the controversy of CyanogenMod receiving a cease and desist letter. If you need to fill yourself in on the details of the Google vs CyanogenMod issue, head back to our previous post to catch yourselves up (be sure to read the comments, as they are filled with thoughtful, quality commentary on the entire situation).

After giving background on the history of Android and lending support towards the custom ROM community, Google addresses the current situation. In Google-speak:

With a high-quality open platform in hand, we then returned to our goal of making our services available on users' phones. That's why we developed Android apps for many of our services like YouTube, Gmail, Google Voice, and so on. These apps are Google's way of benefiting from Android in the same way that any other developer can, but the apps are not part of the Android platform itself. We make some of these apps available to users of any Android-powered device via Android Market, and others are pre-installed on some phones through business deals. Either way, these apps aren't open source, and that's why they aren't included in the Android source code repository. Unauthorized distribution of this software harms us just like it would any other business, even if it's done with the best of intentions.

It takes a little effort to understand but it kind of makes sense. Google sees the Android OS and Google Apps as two completely different entities. Android the OS is built as an open-source platform, where customization and personalization is encouraged. Google Apps are entirely separate from the OS, they're developed closed source and come pre-loaded on specific Android devices through separate business deals, deals that CynagonMod never made. To include Google Apps in custom Android builds would infringe on copyright issues and thus be illegal.

What strikes us as odd is that without these closed source applications (Android Market, Gmail being chief among them) pre-loaded, custom ROMs won't be able to offer an experience as good as the official releases. Which means while Google officially says it supports custom ROMS, they're indirectly hurting the experience. In a sense, Google is saying that you can develop all you want but be sure to leave out the best stuff. How can you eat a cake without a knife and fork?

We're not happy with Google's decision and hate to see a great member of the Android developer Community be stripped of his work. But we remain hopeful that the situation can eventually be improved. Google has earned enough credibility and Android developers are still some of the best and brightest around. We'll figure out a way. We'll continue to monitor the situation and deliver you guys the details. Just hopefully next time, it'll be better news.

Casey Chan