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26 July 2010, 17:24

Survey: Android Tablets "Sad state of Open Source"

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Android Logo A survey of eight makers of Android-based tablets found that only one of the companies was GPL compliant. The private survey by Angus Gratton, queried the makers of fifteen different Android tablets and found that the only GPL compliant vendor was Barnes and Noble with their Nook tablet. Gratton found that Chinese manufacturers Apad, Eken Group, Gome, Moonse and Smart Devices, French vendor Archos and US vendor Pandigital were all non GPL compliant with no source code apparently available. A number of manufacturers have said they will be providing source in the future, but offer no schedules as to when.

Although Android itself is under an Apache licence, within Android are GPL licensed components such as the Linux kernel. This means that although vendors can freely use Google created layers such as the Dalvik VM, user interface layer and other services, the operating system's kernel needs to be made available as source code to anyone who receives the code under the GPL licence.

Gratton is worried about the state of open source in the Android tablet business and hopes that there will be at least one chip-set or device manufacturer which makes "a break from the pack" announces "open source friendly products" and supports community development. Gratton concludes "Until then, if you care about open source you may actually be better off buying an iPad than many of the devices listed above. At least Apple comply with GPL and contribute back to the open source projects that they benefit from!"

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