Android Unleashed


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Jan 06, 2010 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

There has been a lot of discussion about HTC's Nexus One, also known as "The Google Phone". The discussions back and forth about whether it is an "iPhone Killer" are often heated, with issues of whether or not this feature or that feature is better than the iPhone.

One feature that has not been discussed very much by the press is the fact that the "Google Phone" will has a ROM that will allow you to easily change the firmware, and to set up the phone for booting an unsigned version of the operating system, a changed version of the operating system or perhaps even a different operating system.

I have been an Android fan for a long time, but more from a business reason than any other. I liked the concept of having a world-class piece of software that could be put onto any phone of reasonable hardware specifications, and therefore generate a lot of phones from different manufacturers that had the same operating system, could run the same applications, and use the same data but be of different styles and price points.

I also liked the fact that the software would be "Open Source", and that all the source code would be available so people could change the operating system to what they needed. I have written about various projects using "Open Phones" in this blog before. I even made a video about one.

These days many manufacturers of small electronics can manufacture phones, but it is one thing to buy the components and put them into a case. It is a lot harder to create a world-class operating system from scratch, and even harder to get thousands of applications written to run on your platform.

Enter Google and Android. An operating system free to pull down from the net, and an application base that can run on any hardware platform with that operating system. Source code available, so hackers could change the operating system to do innovation, and Value-Added-Resellers (VARs) could create new and innovative applications for their customers.

So I was a bit disappointed to find that the first phone, the G1, was locked to the carrier and also had to have a signed binary to boot. True, as a registered software developer of Google you could buy ONE phone that was unlocked and would not require a signed binary to boot, but a VAR telling each one of their customers to go and sign up for Google's developer program was just not the way to go.

Vizzeco (nee Koolu) a company that I work for, even invested their resources in porting Android to the Openmoko "FreeRunner" phone in an attempt to have the best of both worlds. Vizzeco wanted Android and the "openness" of being able to change Android to meet our (and our VAR's) needs while maintaining application compatibility. Unfortunately while the FreeRunner served as a good platform for prototyping mobile phone operating systems, there were limitations to its manufacturing capacity which limited the usefulness to Vizzecos' business.

Therefore to have the combination of a world-class phone, free and open source software and an image that can be changed to meet various customer's needs (unlike the iPhone), and which can (and I am sure will) be manufactured in large quantities I believe is a really big win.

There may still be some "gotchas" with the Nexus ONE, but I have a feeling there will be lots of companies that will be looking to change the stock operating system to deliver more innovation than Google ever dreamed.

For this phone, I think they should call it "Nexus ONE: Unleashed".


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  • I never considered that.

    I never knew that about the nexus regarding the rom. I experienced android on the G1 and was unimpressed. I think something like the nexus might re-ignite my interest in an open phone not just an open OS. How about someone porting Maemo to the nexus, would that be possible? Or maybe the free runner OS, or Ubuntu Mobile Phone Edition, would cononical or the community consider something like that? Excellent, I going to have to get saving for what is the eqivelent of the PC for phones. Well done google.
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