Monday, July 14, 2014

Android and Free Software

Google's Android operating system has had tremendous success in the last few years , there are now over a a billion active devices that use Android Operating System. The success of Android has been wonderful for Free and Open Source software although Android is not totally FREE, some of the device drivers are proprietary . However it is big step into moving towards the free software regime.

We have come to a time when smart phones have become as powerful as computers that existed a decade ago. For ordinary users who are not developers or coders , whose computing needs are limited to surfing the Internet and creating a few documents, watching videos , capturing videos and taking pictures, smart phones and tablets are more than enough. Smart phones and tablets are cheaper and easier to carry around.

Android now is the most popular Operating System for smart phones and tablets. The Android can be considered a version of Linux considering the fact that it uses a modified version of the Linux Kernel. The source code of Android is available to users after the release.

However its runs on select devices and does not come with the code of the device drivers of certain components that are proprietary. One can download Android from the website free of cost, Google makes money from Android by selling apps made by developers on Google Play store. Not all apps are priced but for those apps that have a price tag to it, Google takes 30% of the amount.

      While Android is enjoying its day in the sun very soon it will have competition from the likes of Ubuntu touch, Tizen, Firefox OS and Jolla SailFish . Firefox OS maybe the real FREE software(free in terms of freedom ) that Android may have to contain with. The beneficiary of this competition will be the users around the globe .

One can clearly see that smart phones and tablets are converging towards desktops, as the processing power goes up and the RAM and storage increase. So in the future one may be using GNU/LINUX or the GNU operating system (with the HURD kernal ) directly from his/her tablet or smart phone.

Currently Google recommends 512Mb of RAM for Android operating system, in 2004 that is 10 years ago desktops used to have 256Mb of RAM , we have quadracore and octacore ARM processors  with over 1Ghz of clock speed. So it is clear from this that mobile devices are closing in on laptops and desktops.

Also android is the operating system of Google Glass the gadget that promises to change the way we use mobiles and computers. One can visit Google Play and find huge number of apps as on June 2014 one can find 1.2 million apps there, both paid and free.

With tablets and smart phones that run on Android or will run in the near future in any one of the above mentioned Free operating systems , the digital world is now successfully coming out of slavery of Microsoft Windows. 

For two and half decades the users were not being able to use any other operating system other than Microsoft Windows and before that MS – Dos. GNU/LINUX was then considered to be only for Geeks and not for ordinary users.

Its wonderful to see that with Android the world has taken a big step towards usage of Free Software and the above mentioned operating systems particularly Firefox OS will have more freedom associated with it , in real terms it can be called a Free Software. Bringing the the vision Free Software Foundation to reality. 
[Note when Free Software is mentioned it means software that is free in terms of freedom not necessarily free in terms of price.]

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