Dear Le Pan / Matsunichi: Here's a document we prepared, outlining why we think releasing the source code for the linux kernel and other GPL-licensed parts of your Android tablet's operating system is a win-win proposition for everyone. I tried to discuss each aspect in detail, so people can familiarize themselves and understand the issues. The original will be sent to Matsunichi, and we hope they could consider it - we all benefit if they do. Any comments from other Forum members are welcome, so please feel free to post replies, questions, etc. [ Thread originally posted HERE ] yann2. --------------------------- The Business Case for Releasing GPL source code for Le Pan's Android Tablets. This memo is being prepared to clarify the issues, questions and considerations regarding the GPL-licensed modules included in Le Pan's Android Tablets. 1. Background information : Most of Google's Android operating system is coded by Google's own programmers, and released by the company under the Apache License. Google specifically states in their Android documentation that this license model was chosen since it does not require licensees to release any additions, modifications or enhancements they create, based on the original. However - there are core components in Android which come from the Linux open source project, and are under the Gnu Public License (GPL) model. These included the Linux Kernel, a number of device drivers and kernel modules, the iBoot boot loader, etc. The Android user community has embraced the operating system, and is very vocal in supporting it against other, closed shop/closed operating system alternatives like Apple's iOS, RIM's Blackberry OS, etc. There's a strong interest in developing enhanced versions of software, modified operating systems, added features to the factory-released devices. A number of forums are available where independant software developers discuss and work on creating their own versions. XDA Developers is one of the largest, but there are others, including some specializing in certain brands, devices, etc. 2. What is being Requested ? The independant development community is very active, and has offered many enhancements to products made by many manufacturers. For knowledgeable users, having a device which is supported and has options beyond the original factory firmware is an important consideration, when choosing or considering purchasing new devices like phones or tablets. What is being requested by the enthusiasts and developer's community is that companies release the source code for : a. the linux kernel as modified for use in the tablet. b. any device drivers and kernel modules that are also GPL licensed. c. the Uboot (iboot) and x-loader (iloader) source code. (from Cas_xp's post here) 3. How do users and Developers benefit from the Source Code Release? Having the kernel source for an existing tablet makes it easier for the developer community to create alternative operating systems packages (popularly called 'ROMs') with extra features, or a newer Android version, etc. 4. How does the Company benefit from the Source Code Release? This also benefits the tablet manufacturer: a. Perceived Added Value : it adds value to an existing tablet, as many users will prefer to buy a model that has other firmware choices, besides the factory provided one. b. Less pressure for Software Updating : it reduces the pressure on the manufacturer to provide updates and debug problems in existing firmware. For example, the TC970 users suffered a big disappointment when Le Pan disclosed they would not be developing a promised software upgrade (to Gingerbread or maybe Honeycomb or ICS). The pressure (and user dissatisfaction) was greatly reduced by the development of a CyanogenMod 7 for the TC970, by XDA Developer cas_xp. This operating system shines, in comparison to the factory Froyo firmware, and has been widely adopted by more technically minded users. In the case of the TC970, which seems to be an 'orphaned model', having the Factory Froyo source code is essential to enable the possible development of a CyanogenMod 9, ICS port. There's a current early alpha of that, but without Graphics Hardware Acceleration, it's disappointing; the developer has made it clear he can't produce a proper version without the source code, to be able to enable GUI acceleration. c. Referrals from Advanced User Community : More enlightened or techsavvy users give great importance to the existance of alternative operating systems. Many will not purchase (or recommend) any devices that are not supported by the independant developers community. Some have even abandoned the Le Pan brand, based on their experience with previous purchases - this is clear from their posts in user forums, including XDA Developers. They have moved on to other, better or 'more open' devices, with larger user communities, like for example the HP Touchpad. d. Avoiding Legal Problems : Legal reasons are also important; by not releasing the GPL'ed source code for an Android device within 30 days of its market introduction, the manufacturer is in violation of the license terms. Besides being legally iffy, many users consider this abuse of all the work created by the multitude of programmers who contributed to the linux kernel and the modules which are not being provided. In a large jurisdiction like the European Union and the U.S.A., this could be brought to a court of law, and the company would lose. It has happened, and it's costly and time consuming for all involved. A case in the U.S.A. could also jeopardize the sales of tablets via the major mass market retailers Le Pan has been able to place their products in (Amazon USA and Canada, Best Buy, Walmart.com, TigerDirect.com, etc.) 5. Costs or consequences to the Company by releasing Source Code : a. Release Source Code via git depository : A company can easily set up a git depository, and place all GPL licensed files there, publicly available to anyone interested. This can be done without any costs, or at minimal costs to the company, like we can see in the example of Archos's git depository for their tablets here : https://gitorious.org/archos b. Risk of 'Malware' being developed with the Kernel Sources : We already have a firmware unpacker/packer tool, which creates the signature for the firmware files which the Le Pan 1 boot loader expects to find. This tool was created by fv+, a user at XDA Devs forum, and it was what enabled chinabull to create the port of ClockWorkMod for the TC970. (which is packaged and loaded just like a factory firmware) Someone could use the same tool, and create a 'malware/destructive' package; but they wouldn't need to wait for Le Pan's source code - the packer tool is available now, was created in early January or so. Users who want to use advanced, independently developed operating systems are aware they do so at their own risk. ROMs are usually developed and supported in a forum community, reviews of other users would stop dead any attempt at 'malware' distribution. 6. Conclusions, Summary : To summarize the points explained above, we feel that Le Pan will benefit from the release of source code for any GPL-licensed portions (kernel, boot loaders, drivers, etc) due to : a. Improve the company's standing and rapport with the development community. b. Increased sales to those interested in development, alternative ROMs, customized versions for Business usage, etc. c. Getting improved user reviews, referrals to new buyers. d. Avoiding legal liabilities for gpl license violations. e. Reduce pressure on the company's development team for bug fixes It is understood rooting and installing custom roms will void the manufacturers warranty so you should have no costs incurred for "bricked" tablets, should that unfortunate event occur. We urge you to consider these, and release the source code for the TC970 Le Pan 1 tablet at least. Thank you for your attention, yann2, on behalf of Le Pan users community.