There are a lot of things that make Android great. To name just a few reasons why Android rocks: there is a wide range of hardware partners, you can customize the UI, and there are plenty of great 3rd party launchers and stores — the list goes on and on. As we all know, at the heart of this flexibility lies the fact that Android is an open-source operating system.
Open-source software is very important to Google, with many of its products being based open-source efforts including both Android and Chrome (well, at least Chromium is). Android’s ability to be tweaked with custom apps and launchers makes the OS equally appealing to carriers and manufacturers.
Of course open-source platforms like Android aren’t without their pitfalls, as they are often open to legal obstacles due to potential patent issues regarding Linux. In fact, Microsoft has already taken quite a few Android manufacturers to court and forced them into royalty agreements due to Linux-related patents.
Open-source platforms like Android aren't without their pitfalls, as they are often open to legal obstacles due to potential patent issues regarding Linux.
So what can Google and other companies that use Linux do to better protect themselves? One way is through the Open Invention Network, which basically is an organization that works to increase its own (currently 600–plus strong) patent library and then cross-licenses it to their members.
Additionally, the OIN will grant royalty-free access to certain patents to companies that agree not to sue any OIN members over any matter regarding the use of Linux.
While Google was already an associate member of the Open Invention Network, today Google has announced they are expanding their commitment to the protection of open-source efforts by becoming the first new OIN board member since 2007. This means Google will be joining other full members of the OIN including Red Hat, Novell, IBM, Sony, Phillips and NEC.
Linux now powers nearly all the world's supercomputers, runs the International Space Station, and forms the core of Android. But as open source has proliferated, so have the threats against it, particularly using patents. That's why we're expanding our participation in Open Invention Network, becoming the organization's first new full board member since 2007.
Director of open source at Google
While this new commitment doesn’t directly affect Android users, it does mean that Google is taking an even more active role when it comes to protecting open-source Linux projects. It also means that the Open Invention Network is now receiving significant financial backing from Google, which should allow it to continue to further its own patent library.
All-in-all this is good news for both Google, the OIN and Linux (and Android) enthusiasts everywhere.