The Walled Garden: Why we can’t have nice things
So, I was listening to Linux Unplugged 168 today. In which there is a large discussion on android vulnerabilities, lack of support, and the cluster fuck that is the current mobile phone market. The discussion inspired a thought in me that made me realize why our mobile phone market is broken, and why it is we can’t have nice things.
You see, we’ve really come full circle to a problem that once existed in the early computer ages. Remember when company X released their computer, and with it they released their own operating system that ran on their hardware? Those were the day’s before standardized operating systems existed. The day’s before hardware was hardware and software was software. We’re back to those day’s, and its fucking us over royally.
You have this cluster fuck where The Providers(Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc..), The hardware manufactures (Samsung, HTC, , and google. Android should have become the solution, but unfortunately it has not (I’ll expand on this shortly). You see, we’re working under an outdated mobile philosophy, in which the phone was an all in one package that the manufacturers delivered. Back in the age of dumb phones, it made sense that Samsung would develop their software and put it on the phone. They’d work with Verizon to make sure their hardware/software worked on Verizon’s network, and that was that. That mentality is what is fucking us royally right now. Phones aren’t phones anymore, they are computers. Anyone that tells you otherwise “A phone should just be a phone” is wrong.
“But Brandon” I hear you saying, “Android runs on all of these phones, your idea of their being a hardware/software dependency is wrong.” No it’s not. Think about it. Samsung releases their phone, it comes with their “version” of android, and it’s pretty clear those drivers aren’t making it forward. Every time a new phone comes out, things like Cyanogen mod have to figure out how to support the phone. Those drivers should just be in the core framework of what it is to be android.
Imagine this: you buy a shiny new Dell XPS 13 inch laptop. It comes with windows 10, and on it is all that oh so wonderful special dell software that we all love and can’t live without. Now, you decide to buy a stock copy of windows 10 that comes off the shelf ( since Linux is a completely different OS and requires a separate driver, I’ll not compare those two), and install it on that laptop so that you don’t have all of dells crap… If our computer model had evolved in the same way that phones have, your system simply would not have any driver support, and would not work. You could not install dells drivers by themselves.
Now let’s talk about carriers, and their part in this mess. Part of the reason many android devices don’t get updates is because carriers feel that things have to be tested on their end. That is ludicrous, and frankly part of it is our fault: As consumers, if something on our phone breaks, we would most likely call and be upset at our provider: This should not be the case. Verizon, sprint, AT&T, and all the others: SHOULD BE THE SAME AS ISP’s. They should be providing a connection, and that’s it. Think of it this way, many laptops have support to stick a sim card in and connect to a data network through a carrier…If you apply the same logic, Microsoft should then have to clear all their OS updates through said carriers before they update those computers. You know why that isn’t how things work? Because its STUPID. That connection is just a connection, nothing more. That is what carriers should be. A connection.
By extraction, hardware manufacturers should be…hardware manufacturers. Samsung should concern themselves with making the best hardware they can, as should HTC. The software should not be their concern. Their drivers should be made available upstream, and anyone that wants to make a spin on android should have access to said drivers.
And finally google… This is where the cluster fuck really settles in. There should be no “supported” phones, drivers for a hardware device should carry forward to every new OS, until that hardware physically cannot take it anymore. Sure it might run cruddy, but that should be a user decision, not googles decision. Google should be releasing google android nougat, and any phone device that has drivers for android should be able to attempt to run it, so long as it meets the minimum specs. You know. Like a real operating system, but google is more concerned with closing off more and more of android, instead of just making it a better system.
We need to change the way we look at phones. They are pocket computers, not fucking walled gardens.
This is the break down:
Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-mobile: They should have as much concern for what hardware/software we are running as an internet service provider does your computer: None. They should give zero fucks given. Problem with this idea is: That would mean the only thing to keep you on their service as opposed to another providers service would be the quality of said service. That’s right, they would have to be competitive at a service/pricing level, rather than being able to lock you in based on the phone you bought and where you bought it. That’s bad for business.
Samsung, HTC, Motorola should concern themselves with what OS/Service provider as Dell and HP care about what OS and Internet provider you have on your computer: zero fucks given. Oh, wait, the problem with this is: The manufacturers would only have to concern themselves with making better hardware than the other guys. They wouldn’t have hooks and deals with the providers and their own version of android that is associated with them that hooks you into their platform. That is bad for business.
And finally google… Google as the software provider should not be concerned with what phone you own, or what provider you are on. They should be concerned with maintaining an OS, and making it appealing. They should focus on making it available to the largest number of devices, and making it as good as they can, but…They had to make those concessions to the other two sides of this standoff to allow for adoption early on, and now their focus is to close off more of android. Mind you, this closing off is not to help gain back control for the users. No make no mistake: this is to make sure that THEY DO NOT GET CUT OUT OF THE EQUATION. Let’s face it, Samsung just about did it. Samsung’s version of android is so vastly different than googles, and so close to feature complete, that if google hadn’t reacted the way they had with the play store and google play services…Well Samsung would have walked away from google completely and they would have been left without a piece of the pie. So where android should be an open source project. Something distribution based system similar to how Linux exists…It is not. Instead it is slowly becoming more and more closed off. Why? Because it’s bad for business to do it any other way.
Think about it, if a phone were treated like a PC, Microsoft could easily work with manufacturers to create drivers for every phone in existence for their windows phone OS, and you know they would. Different version of android would pop up that could grow off of each other like open source projects are MEANT to, creating something even better than what we have. Security would be less of an issue. I’ll repeat that: Security. Less of an issue.
From three different sides we, the consumers, get abused. We are stuck, yes there are projects like Cyanogen mod that are doing a small part to fight against it, but if the three other sides figured out a good way to cut them out completely: You bet your ass they would.
Because no side of the equation wants to admit that a phone isn’t a phone anymore. All three sides are trying desperately to keep the world from realizing it. Because they have to keep that 2 year upgrade cycle. They have to keep that lock in. It’s not enough to provide a better service, a better piece of hardware, a better OS. But what do I know? I mean… I’m just another sheep in the pen right?