This is not good.
The short summary version: T-Mobile has added a rootkit to their soon-to-be released G2 Android phone that reportedly resets the phone to its original software after rooting.
It’s unclear if the rootkit undoes both custom ROM installations, like CyanogenMod, and application rooting like unrevoked (@unrevoked).
Since the phone is still unreleased, I doubt that an application root method has been developed yet.
So, why is this bad? Android is provided for free by Google to carriers under an Apache license, and adding a rootkit that controls what can be installed on the device flies in the face of the openness of the license.
I’m not a licensing expert, but I don’t think T-Mobile has violated the licensing terms for Android. They are playing dirty pool, though.
More important is the consumer’s inability to modify the hardware to her/his liking. As New America states:
This would be akin to a computer sold with Microsoft Windows containing chip that prevented users from installing Linux or another operating system of their choice.
Recent exemptions made to the DMCA explicitly permit the jailbreaking and unlocking of mobile phones. It seems logical that this exemption would also apply to the installation of a custom ROM. Again, from a novice’s viewpoint.
I suppose the issue here is that modders will brick their phones and consume T-Mobile’s resources trying to get back to the factory default.
Still, this is a bogus argument. Undertaking a mod like this requires a pretty high level of comfort with technology. People who failed would most likely seek out T-Mobile’s assistance as a very last resort, if only to save their egos.
I speak from experience here.
Anyway, this is a big deal for the Android community. What do you think about the implications, repercussions, etc.?
Find the comments.
Update: CyanogenMod (@cyanogen) has requested that we stop calling this a “rootkit”. Lulz. This will not end well for T-Mobile, see many historical examples of corporations vs. motivated geeks.