Android has been exploding in popularity since it’s release to the public in 2008. Recently, it’s success has bred a new collection of rumors and FUD. HP’s new CEO Meg Whitman claimed that Google’s acquisition of Motorola would lead to Android being becoming closed source. It seems ridiculous, and is probably just an effort to bring herself more public attention, but there have been some people out in the real world that have also expressed concern. I received a tweet, saying “I am concerned that at the end Android kills the open source Linux community.” I don’t think that will happen. Here’s why.
Linux is open source. Now, this might seem like a great big “Duh” thing to say, but I think it’s important.
Even if Google were to close source Android, the source code is out there. Even Google doesn’t have the power to erase something from the Internet once it’s been put out there. I have yet to see anybody that does short of just throwing the power switch on the whole darn thing. Maybe some strategically placed EMPs covering the globe could pull it off. The Open Source community is far older than Linux, and the Linux Open Source community will exist as long as the community wants it to.
Let’s assume that Android takes off like nothing before it. iOS becomes a fading memory, the only thing left of OSX is the boxes used to prop opens doors and discs that get burned in the microwave for fun. Windows is relegated to a not-so-fond memory of a BSOD. Why would Linux disappear? The Open Source Community is a major contributor to the kernel that drives Android. Yes, there are many multi-billion dollar corporations that also contribute to the kernel, but if those corporations deviate from what the community believes is right, those changes just won’t get incorporated into the kernel.
Even assuming those corporations manage to mount a coup and take over the kernel completely, the Community doesn’t take that kind of behavior lying down. A good example is OpenOffice. When Oracle started being a too heavy handed in their management of the OpenOffice suite, the community rebelled, forked off of OpenOffice and created LibreOffice. Oracle tried to fight the community, but eventually had to concede (ie. they lost badly), donating the entirety of the OpenOffice suite to the Apache Foundation.
No, when it comes to Linux, we don’t have to worry that Android’s success is going to cost Linux in the long run. Meg Whitman can blather any kind of FUD she wants. The Open Source Linux Community is self sufficient. They manage themselves, and they will be around as long as they want to be around. In 50 years, will they still be working on Linux? No one can know for sure, but if they’re not, it’s because they’ve moved on to something they think is better, not because Android succeeded.