Analysis: Does Google’s Android use "stolen" Linux code?

No one can dispute the fact that Google’s Android operating system is a resounding success in the mobile phone market.

But Android’s seemingly unstoppable march has recently come under a cloud of unflattering news. 

First was the lawsuit filed by enterprise database leader Oracle, which claimed infringement of patent(s) in Android’s use of Java.

Now Google has found itself on the wrong end of bad news again after being accused of pilfering approximately 2.5 MB of Linux source code for Android – a claim that many industry experts view as far more grave than Oracle’s original Java lawsuit.

So what options does Google have? 

For starters, a simple rewrite and replacement of the offending source code would seem like most obvious thing to do. 

And this is precisely what Google’s accuser in this instance – Florian Mueller – believes the search engine giant must do if is to avoid an implosion of Android’s ecosystem.

Still, the solutions are far from straightforward. As any programmer knows, rewriting a substantial proportion of the operating system from scratch can take a while. 

Add to that the inevitable compatibility issues that will undoubtedly emerge on embedding the new code in the existing Android OS code.

The other path that Google could take is placing the Android OS code under GPL. But even that path is not trouble free. 

Going under GPL would mean that any person anywhere would have access to

and be able to modify not only the OS code but any third party application built on the OS. 

This, in turn, has the implication of making it nearly impossible for any developer to earn revenue when they build a system that runs on the Android OS.

What Google will eventually choose to do is not clear. However, few people would doubt that the latest lawsuit has the potential of sucking Android into one messy black hole. 

If indeed it is established that Google “stole” code and used it to build the Android OS, the firm would have to look for not only a quick solution but one that will ensure a clean and seamless transition. 

Unfortunately, there is no sign of such a solution thus far.

In any case, Android has made a major impact in the mobile phone market and consumers are unlikely to turn away from it in droves because of this latest development. 

Nevertheless, there is a risk of substantial speed bumps to continued growth for the Android, though it really does depend on how well Google responds to and manages this issue.