Why GPL would have done nothing to prevent Google from closing up Android

I read an interestig article on The Verge the other day entitled ‘Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary’. It basically details how Google is slowly but surely closing up Android, by stopping maintenance and new development on the Open Source versions of most important apps and instead improving only the closed source forks of these apps in the Google Play store.

Locked Android
(Image courtesy of Anythingbutiphone.com)

It is an interesting strategy: Start out by giving something away for free and only once you have gained a strong foothold in the marketplace, start closing it up so you get/keep full control and can start milking your new cash cow.

Turns out that The Verge is doing a series of articles on this subject and I spend quitte some time reading some of them. I also tend to read comments and it was one of the comments that triggered this blog post. Basically the commenter was saying that if Android would have been GPL licensed this strategy of Google would not have been possible:

OK, a Nook can run programs that were coded for an older version of Android, maybe even a recent version. But it cannot be called, nor IS it called “Android.” This is sorta like Linux where you can only use version 2.2. Except that Linux is GPLv2, which would never allow this sort of foolishness.

This is pertinently false!

I hate it when people spread disinformation about topics I care about, such as Open Source. So much so that I created an entire blog just to store the standard message I give people who claim that Open Source software is not necessarily free as in free beer, when in fact it is.

So why would a GPL license here have done nothing to prevent ‘this sort of foolishness’?

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