newly launched movie rental service. The restriction has to do with "requirements related to copyright protection," according to this Android Market support article. Users with rooted devices will instead see an error message dubbed "error 49" when they attempt to play a movie.It appears that power users who "root" (take administrative control over) their Android devices will not have access to Google's
So much for "open," laugh Android naysayers. Do you agree?
Nice Move, Google
Reaction to this newly discovered restriction has been overwhelming negative. Ars Technica described the move as "yet another slap in the face to users who have bought into Google's claims that the Android platform is superior to other mobile platforms because of its openness."
AndroidGuys' Ray Walters says the restriction "makes me pretty unhappy, and frankly, I think Google has screwed the pooch here."
And AndroidCentral's Jerry Hillenbrand, who broke the news (as far as we can tell), admonished Google harshly, saying, "that makes me want to buy more of your products and use more of your services, so I can be treated like a criminal just because I'm smart enough to get rid of CityID, or want a safe version of Android on my phone." (CityID is a preinstalled application on some Android devices, which many rooters choose to remove).
A slap in the face? Criminals?
Wow, tell us how you really feel, bloggers.
The Streaming Movie Battle on Android
The truth is, the requirement to restrict access to this new streaming service comes from the movie studios themselves, not Google. After all, it was the studios' fear of piracy that led to Netflix's inability to launch on Android until just recently.
In November 2010, Netflix explained the holdup to Android users, saying that because it didn't have a common platform security mechanism and DRM, Android devices would have be certified one-by-one. It's a slow way to doing things, and "not a preferred solution," the company said.
Six months later, the first five Android phones to officially have access to Netflix were finally announced. More are on the way, the company promised, again reiterating the "significant challenges with developing a streaming video application for this ecosystem."
In Netlix's case, the original restriction was actually due to the very openness of the Android platform itself. So open, in fact, that it scared the studios away.
Defining (& Re-Defining) Open
Google has long touted Android as a more open alternative to Apple's iOS mobile operating system (OS) that powers the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. With Android, carriers and OEMs can customize the mobile OS, adding pre-installed apps and services, user interface layers like HTC's Sense and other features. Application developers can submit apps to the Android Marketplace and see them go live immediately, without having to pass through an inspection process as is necessary with iTunes. And finally, Android's code is open source.
For these reasons, Google has promoted Android as an "open" OS. But moves like this latest one - banning rooted devices from streaming movies - make some users question whether Android is really open enough.
It all depends on how you define "open," we suppose. Google's Android chief Andy Rubin explained what the company meant by "open" at this month's developer event, Google I/O. Android is open-source code, he said, but it's not a community-driven project.
How's that for open?
Google also tightly controls the Android platform, restricting OEMs' access to Google apps like Gmail, Maps and the Android Market by defining a set of compatibility standards. These standards have now been exposed in a lawsuit initiated by location provider Skyhook, who claims Google uses them in an anti-competitive way.
Is that open? Hmm.
In other words, Android, comparatively speaking, may be more open than other mobile OS's. But open open? No, not really. You know it, we know it, Google and its partners know it. That horse is dead. Now, please move on to posting hacks on defeating this new restriction on rooted phones. Thank you.