Way back in the Windows Mobile days, the sweetheart devices were made by HTC. Power users could do so much with devices made by HTC. Even today, the most-hackable, least brickable device is arguably the HTC HD2. Over time, HTC started to lose that crown and, for a while, Samsung picked it up and ran with it.
Why is the crown so important?
Sure, we’d all like a phone that we can hack, but some will downplay the ability to do so and say “hack friendlyness” shouldn’t be a measure of a device’s appeal. Maybe they’re right in that regard.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), today we live in a world of licenses. Many of those licenses come with requirements and obligations — but I’m not talking about obligations for you and I, the end-user. No, I’m talking about requirements that the manufacturer must contractually meet. Most of these fall under the GPL which requires those who use code distributed under that license to release their code under the same license. In most cases that’s not an option, it’s a legal requirement. Alas, some OEMs drag their feet and don’t release their code in a timely fashion. This delays the power-user and developer communities from picking it up and doing cool stuff with it.
These days the worst offenders are arguably Huawei, ZTE, and Rockchip. Not quite as bad are Motorola, LG, and unfortunately HTC. Over the last year or so, the best player has been Samsung with their plethora of Galaxy-branded devices. Today, however, Sony may be the new favorite in town.
Not long ago, Sony worked with Google (or vice versa) to release code for some of their devices into the AOSP, they’ve released beta builds of upcoming updates for power users to test before releasing them to “regular” users. They have released their AOSP binaries, and even opened their own Github for future AOSP development. Now, Sony has released an alpha version of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean for the Xperia T. Being an alpha, many core components don’t work, but it’s a stable foundation that Sony wants to get out to their power users. What’s more, Sony even released the kernel source for the alpha build. I can’t think of any one of the major players who has has ever done this before.
Some might argue that Sony has to do this to comply with GPL, and to an extent, they’d be right. Others OEMs, however, drag their feet, release incomplete code that doesn’t build (which is a GPL violation), or wait until petitions are files or lawyers are involved before begrudgingly releasing code (also a GPL violation).
Sony “Gets It”
What does this all mean? Simply put: Sony gets it. They know what to do to stay compliant with GPL. They know what to do to keep their power users happy. They are contributing more than is minimally required.
Anyone out there should look at Sony and the fan base that’s growing up around it — and if they’re a competitor they should be very, very worried. Sony is laying the foundation to take the crown from Samsung.
It’s been quite a while since HTC even saw the proverbial crown. Looking at the state of HTC, one has to wonder if they were being more friendly to their user base if their company might be in better shape today.
Hat tip: XDA-Developers