The source code of Android on the Galaxy Nexus deemed “trade secret” by Google

May 1, 2012
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I’m sure that most of our readers already know that Apple and Google are (and will continue to be for a while) involved in a number of lawsuits pertaining to various patents that one company or the other is supposedly breaking. What many might not know is that, in a number of cases, Apple has requested to learn information about Google’s services and software just so they can sue the search giant for supposedly breaking other patents after analyzing the data.

The latest of these requests, made by Apple as part of the motion for preliminary injunction against the latest Google smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, is by far the most interesting of them all. Apple has requested to learn the differences — if any — between the open source Android code available at https://android.googlesource.com/platform/manifest and the source code for the Android version on the Galaxy Nexus. Even more interesting was Google’s reason for not being able to share that information: “Although Google releases some versions of Android through the Android Open Source Project, the internal functionality of Android running on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is Google’s trade secret.”

Google lawyers made it clear that this is the same way that the iPhone source code was treated in a previous iPhone antitrust case (quoting the official ruling: “because the iPhone source code is a trade secret, plaintiffs have the burden to establish that it is both relevant and necessary.”). But to some, Google’s answer has revealed a bit more about the relatively open nature of the Android OS.

The OS should be the same with all Android smartphones, right? Wrong, as it seems that Samsung has received a secret version of Android to use on the Galaxy Nexus. Just imagine how far Google could go down this path with the biggest company they’ve every acquired, Motorola. It looks like the dissatisfaction of some Android manufacturers regarding the Google-Motorola merger is based on solid facts, and not just a product of their paranoid business heads.

What is your take on this? Is Google holding back major improvements in the OS for implementation on their Nexus smartphones? Or is a legal move without any real-world implications? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

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