The CommonsBlog


Symbian DevCo...and Android

Symbian developers have organized the Symbian DevCo, “a non-profit organisation, to raise the profile of individuals within the Symbian community and give individuals a full voice in the governance of the Symbian platform.” Specifically, Symbian DevCo is a member of the Symbian Foundation and has voting rights on par with any other single member of that foundation. While this does not give any individual who joins the DevCo much power, the fact that rank-and-file developers have any sort of structured voice is good to see. This development is officially endorsed and welcomed by the Symbian Foundation.

A year-plus ago, I had toyed with trying to foment a similar structure for Android.

I gave up.

Simply put, I see no obvious way for such an organization to have anything but an adversarial relationship with Google. The Symbian DevCo is certainly not going to see eye-to-eye with the rest of the Foundation on every issue, but there is a formal structure for participation and deliberation, one that offers the promise of congenial cooperation, even if that doesn’t always happen.

The closest equivalent to the Symbian Foundation that Android offers is the Open Handset Alliance, and that’s a paper tiger, by all accounts. Hence, an “Android DevCo” simply has no current cooperative structure to plug into. All an “Android DevCo” could do is jump up and down on the sidelines, waving its arms and crying “we’re relevant!”, potentially to deaf ears.

This is not to say that an Android DevCo would be useless. Structured as a developers’ cooperative, it could:

  • Provide a structure for app developers to try to help themselves collectively succeed in promoting their apps (e.g., group negotiations for ads)
  • Provide benefits akin to those that other professional societies offer to their members (e.g., discounted insurance programs)
  • At worst, negotiate with Google in the manner taken by trade unions or labor unions (e.g., organizing one-day boycotts of the Market)

However, without any clear vision of an Android DevCo could work with Google, rather than against it, I put the idea aside. It would be a lot of work, none of which I am probably particularly good at.

With luck, we can learn from Symbian DevCo, and perhaps somebody can figure out the right model for an Android analogue, someday.


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