SAN FRANCISCO--In response to Intel Corp.’s claims that he was fragmenting the Android operating system, Chih-Wei Huang has hit back at what he calls “prejudiced” PR tactics to discredit his work.
Last week Intel claimed Huang was fragmenting the Android platform by releasing code meant for x86 chips on his own Android-x86 group, which is not part of Google’s official Android Open Source Project (AOSP).
Huang denied undermining Intel’s efforts, saying he and a partner had been working on the project since June 2009, well before Intel’s involvement, partially for work and partially out of interest.
“I like free software or open source,” Huang told EE Times. “I have been a Linux user and developer for over ten years. Android is an operating system based on the Linux kernel, but has an entirely different software stack. That's very interesting to me.”
Huang explained he didn’t have an ARM development board, and therefore decided to experiment with Android using a more common platform, the x86. During his tinkering, Huang said he encountered some difficulties porting the Android code to x86 and wanted to share those with others, thus starting the Android-x86 project.
A source at Google told EE Times that this initial project of Huang’s hadn’t generated a huge deal of interest, but Huang said his group now boasts some 2,600 subscribers.
“People expect us to port each Android release to their favorite x86 tablet and netbook,” he said adding, “I don't want to let them down.”
Huang hotly denied Intel’s claims he had not submitted his code to the Google run Android Open Source Project, saying that at least 26 of his patches have already been merged with the official x86 code, viewable on the AOSP tree.
For its part, Google sees no obligation to AOSP to support x86. Google simply chooses a lead device for every new release of Android, and works with one company to optimize the software for that particular device’s chipset.
For instance, Android Ice cream Sandwich is optimized for TI’s OMAP platform. Only once that optimization has been achieved does Google open source the binaries to that particular version, allowing other vendors a crack at the code.
“It’s nice to see independent developers maintaining their own trees, but typically each chip vendor maintains its own tree, its own port and shares that port with its customers,” a source at Google told us, adding that simply because Huang had submitted code, it didn’t mean Google should simply accept it as official support for Intel’s platform.
“At the end of the day, it’s Intel’s platform and we can’t take code from anyone out there and say, ‘hey this looks great’, because it’s up to Intel to support it. It’s up to Intel and other x86 vendors to support their customers at the end of the day,” he said.
“This is an old story, really,” noted Android expert and commentator Russell Holly. “The CyanogenMod developer team used to submit every single thing they did to AOSP but got tired of it being rejected for no good reason. When they started working more closely with Sony Ericsson, there was hope that more of their work would find its way to AOSP,” he added, pointing out that Google’s big business partners always came first, even if it meant snubbing individual developers.
The difficulty, explained Huang, is that the AOSP review source website has been down for almost three months now, and Google still hasn’t brought it back online, making it impossible to submit any new code, regardless of whether or not it is ultimately accepted.
“Nobody from the open source community can submit patches to Google right now,” Huang explained, noting that he was unsure whether Intel was still able to submit patches to Google privately. If that was indeed the case, said Huang, it was a very “unfair game.”
Android source code used to be hosted on kernel.org, like much other Linux source code, but a particularly vicious hack has meant Google had to move the code to its own servers. The firm said it was “working to restore access as quickly as possible,” and that its priority had been restoring its git servers to get the code back online, in order to upstream the Android Ice Cream Sandwich build.