I agree that they won’t team up with Purism. They will simply use its code. The great thing about free software is that it brings in companies, who may not have an ethical commitment, but for practical reasons they end up contributing, because the license forces them. Its cheaper to use Chatty and Calls with a GPL3+ license than develop their own apps.
Companies care about security and privacy when they see a market for it. Apple decided that it could market the iPhone based on security and privacy, and Google is now trying to convince everyone that cares about those issues too. The problem is that Apple and Google can only offer ersatz versions of the security and privacy that Purism can offer.
Most phone makers don’t like being under Google’s thumb, and Linux offers them a way to escape, but they will have to see people buying the Librem 5 and PinePhone, and thousands of apps being added, before they risk their business on mobile Linux.
It won’t happen overnight, but there are solid reasons for optimism, when we consider all the benefits to the phone makers:
- No licensing fees for Google Web Services.
- No requirement to install Google’s spyware on their phones.
- No onerous certification process by the Open Handset Alliance.
- Much lower costs to perform upgrades, since they don’t have to pass any compatibility tests. It cost Fairphone €500,000 just to upgrade to Android 7 because of Google’s onerous certification requirements.
- No more restrictions that prevent them from customizing their software so they can distinguish themselves from their competitors and avoid the commodity trap.
- The goal of Google is to keep driving down the prices of smartphones at the low end of the market, so that more and more people can afford them and Google can collect data on the other half of the planet that doesn’t currently own a smartphone.
The inability to customize causes the commodification of Android phones and Google’s efforts to keep inviting in more and more competitors in order to drive down prices have driven profits out of the industry. Linux solves many problems for the phone companies. It just has to get good enough that the phone companies are willing to start offering a few Linux models as an experiment. Even if Linux just gets 5% of market share, it will scare the dickens out of Google, and Google will be forced to respond with better policies toward the privacy of its users. The regulators will look at mobile Linux and start asking why Google can’t provide better user rights to privacy.
Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I see a path for Purism to reform the tech industry, which is one of the goals of the company. What I know for sure is that we are guaranteed to end up in a very bad place as a society if nobody tries to stop what is happening right now with surveillance Capitalism. Lots of people are disturbed by it, but they don’t have a convenient way to avoid it, so they simply accept it. If people have a viable alternative, we might be surprised how many people will choose the alternative.