What a rollercoaster you’ve put me through today Motorola, can I call you Moto? I’ve been a fan of your products since the MicroTac I had way back in the day and I said this then, and I still say it today, you seriously build some outstanding hardware. I’ve also had several variants of the Razr, which was a great phone (pretty obvious from the bajillions you sold back then, huh?) and innovative at the time. Then you hit some rough times. Your glory days had seemed to wind toward that corporate sunset, and you needed a way back into the hearts and minds of the people. A small green robot came by and offered his tiny robot hand to pull you out of the depths. The Droid was born. Now you did an amazing job with the original Droid, which is still one of the best devices I’ve owned running CyanogenMod 7 Nightlies, touting some nice specs for the time and offering the openness that really sets Android apart from its competitor in its walled garden. The Droid is still the number 1 Android device, at least as of Dec 2010, which says a lot toward its greatness.
Then you went and did the unthinkable. The openness that really makes Android an amazing Operating System was choked out by encrypted bootloaders. You’ve bitten the tiny robot hand that saved you from certain destruction. The Droid X is really an awesome device. It’s easily one of the best phones I’ve had, and beats out a lot of the competition that I had a chance to play with during my time reviewing hardware for The AndroidBlog. Now, the Android Community has managed to at least get the Droid X to the point that we can run some custom-built variations of your software, but it’s just not the same as the old Droid. I’ll be frank, I miss CyanogenMod. I’ve been tempted on various occasions to just ditch the Droid X in favor of something that offers up more of the openness that makes Android great, but I haven’t. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have saved myself the heartache, the countless SBF’s which the Community has to beg, borrow, and steal to get in the first place. It’s almost as if you wanted us to fail, as if you wanted us to give up. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time with the Android Community, it’s that giving up isn’t really an option that comes easily.
So now on to your latest exploits. First, you tell us to buy from someone else if you want to run a custom ROM. I hope whoever made that comment never has access to a public-facing forum ever again, because that was not only bad customer service, it was also bad business sense. The key in that last sentence was Sense, because that’s exactly what they’d be seeing from HTC. The condescending attitude in that comment was sickening, and as soon as I read it, it instantly made me a Moto-Hater. You don’t understand how much that made my blood boil. We in the Android community were aware of your stance on activities such as running custom ROMs, you made it clear back in the Milestone days, but to be that brash about it was probably the worst move I’ve seen a company make in a while. In fact, this post was meant to be a pure Moto-Hate post until you dropped your next bombshell.
If there was ever a glimmer of hope, not only for Motorola, but for Android in general, this was it. I’m still in disbelief that this even came out of you, so I’m waiting to actually see some action on this before I go giving you any medals, but taking a stance such as this is a great step forward for Motorola. I’m sure you’ve seen Google’s opinions on how open Android should be, and a large part of me wants to think that post is what may have inspired you to switch your footing. However, the smaller part of me is screaming “damage control, it’ll never happen!” and it’s really hard given your past (with the exception of the Droid) not to put some validity to that. So now, the entire Android Community waits with bated breath for your next move. When will this happen? What will it be? Is this for real? All common questions since you’ve come out with your new face on. Will it be a Fastboot style unlock? That would be the best plan of action, if I were steering the U.S.S. Moto, but again, my judgment gets the better of me and instantly shoots down the idea as such a non-Moto move that it makes that situation unbelievable. I can still dream a dreamer’s dream and hope for the best, and I really hope you take this chance to change the course of Android seriously.
“Change the course of Android” you say? It’s no secret that OEM’s are moving toward an ever more locked down state with every new device. While most haven’t taken it to the insane level you’ve gone to to keep the community that brought you back to life from using your devices how they want, they are still moving in that direction. What would it take for this trend to stop? One of the biggest and most “closed-minded” manufacturers to do an about-face, and lead the Open Android revolution. Other manufacturers would really have no choice but to follow suit, else they be cast as what Moto is being cast as lately, “The Killer of the Open Android”. This mass move towards an Open Android would undoubtedly change the entire course of Android History.
So here’s my challenge to you, Motorola, lay out your plans for a developer-friendly bootloader. Doing so would win back the hearts and minds of several like myself, that crave the craftsmanship of Moto’s hardware with the freedom of more open software. Surprise us. We need it. Android needs it. And frankly, with Apple’s Verizon iPhone right around the corner, you need it too. Android’s main differentiating point is its (possible) openness. It’s a claim Apple can’t make, and one that Android manufacturers should tout with pride over the iPhones Walled Garden rather than fight it.
In the end, its really up to you, Motorola, to take a stand and choose a path. I, along with the rest of the Android Community, will be hoping for a positive outcome, and I’m sure I’m speaking for the majority in saying an Open Android is the best move you could make. Take this opportunity to regain our trust seriously, and you may win yourself some of those loyal customers that are much like me, back. We look forward to seeing what you choose.
Eric Richardson (@Richie681)
*Guest Post* This post originally appeared at Eric’s Blog