Google: Augen’s Use of Android Market Unauthorized

Looks like someone in the cheap tablet biz might be breakin’ the law. When we saw that the $149 Augen GenTouch78 tablet included the Android Market app, we knew it was too good to be true. After all, Google hasn’t allowed its Market app onto any Android tablet yet (the Dell Streak doesn’t count since it’s a phone) so why would they make an exception for an unknown brand selling a junky product? It raised another red flag when we noticed that the Market app on the GenTouch78 actually doesn’t work; it can only search for, but not successfully download apps. If Google did allow it, why didn’t it work?

Update: Augen CEO responds to this report.

We decided to take our question to Google and ask them if Augen was allowed to install the Android Market and other core Google apps and a spokesperson responded that “Augen included proprietary Google software in their product via an unauthorized vendor. Google only licenses its software to partners and OHA [Open Handset Alliance] members directly.”

Why is this a big deal if Android is open source, anyway? As we’ve talked about before, the Google Android OS is open-source, but core Google apps, including the Android Market, are closed source and must be licensed.

There’s no indication yet how Augen was able to obtain these apps if they didn’t come directly from Google. The search giant didn’t expand on who the ‘unauthorized vendor’ might be, but since fans of the Archos 5 have been hacking the Android Market and other core apps onto that tablet for months, it seems just as likely that the manufacturer could have taken similar steps. Clearly something fishy is going on at Augen or whatever company actually makes the GenTouch78.

We also have to wonder how something with unlicensed and potentially illegal software on it could end up on the shelf at K-Mart. We doubt that any national chain store would stock PCs with a pirated or hacked version of Windows.

Google didn’t give us any indication of how they intend to proceed regarding the GenTouch78, but I wouldn’t count on the Market working fully any time soon. And perhaps the tablet will disappear from shelves completely.


AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. aftermath Says:

    This is one of many reasons why the Linux community has not fully embraced Android.

  2. Ben Says:

    LOL I did not know you need authorization to use Open Source software.

    That’s news.

  3. Avram Piltch Says:

    While the core of Android is open-source, the Google apps within it are closed-source and copyrighted. The Android Marketplace is one of those closed-source, copyrighted apps.

  4. Brian Mastenbrook Says:

    Nice work Avram. I’ve been waiting for someone to pick up this story and I think there’s a lot, lot more going on behind the scenes yet and there’s a story waiting to be written about how a Chinese market product like the Dawa D7 winds up on the shelves at a major US retailer chock full of illegal software. It would be great if some intrepid blogger / reporter were to dig into this a bit, as it would make for entertaining reading if nothing else.

    Have you contacted the vendors of the other software included on the Gentouch (QuickOffice, Dataviz, Skype, etc.) to see if Augen’s distribution of their software is licensed? I’d bet that none of it is either. Augen has also yet to release the source to the Linux kernel shipped on the device, which means their use of Linux is unlicensed too. This is a sadly too common problem in the industry.

    One thing you might not have noticed in your review is that every Gentouch has the same WiFi hardware (MAC) address, which means that two Gentouch units can’t coexist on one WiFi network. This is because Augen did not obtain a device manufacturer identifier (OUI) of their own, so they can’t assign unique addresses to the devices. The MAC address that it does use is from Atheros’s range, because it’s the default MAC address used by the Atheros WiFi chipset in the device. I wonder what Atheros would have to say about this.

    The device is marked with the FCC logo, but there’s no FCC ID on the device that I can see. Does the manual contain any FCC information? Is there anything which indicates that they haven’t just slapped the FCC logo on the device to give it the veneer of legality?

  5. Consumer Advocate Says:

    Let us get this straight. If someone builds a device that has a generic (unlicensed but legal) install of the Android open source software (OS) on their device, Google won’t allow them to ship their devices with Google’s core apps or access to their market?

    OK, fine, assuming that’s the case, Is getting Google’s core apps and access to the market something that the end user is/would be allowed to do independently, after the purchase of one of these devices?

    If so, then all these imported tablet manufacturers would need do is put together some kind of link list to direct the users to the appropriate url’s. They then could advertise their offerings as Android Market capable.

    If not, however, then Google is at best hypocritical when putting on the pretense that they are so open while pointing to Apple as having a closed app store model (walled garden).

    In the PC world, third party vendors pay the likes of HP and Dell for space on their default desktops to peddle their wares (trial ware, we call it crap-ware). Now, it seems, Google wants device manufacturers to pay them to include their (free) core apps and access to their app marketplace (a source of income for them).

    Though still freer than Apple’s total locked down model, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the actual control Apple exerts over their hardware and software, and the effective control Google exerts over Android based software and hardware by disallowing the use of their popular core apps to anyone who hasn’t kissed their ring and paid tribute.

    In the mobile device (Smart-phone and Tablet PC) realm, this trend toward OS locked, carrier locked, and these incessant after market application access controls is getting old and quite tiring….

  6. Gary Gofman CEO Augen Electronics Corp. Says:

    Florida- August 07, 2010 – Augen Electronics Corp., an innovator of tablet pc’s, netbooks, and eReaders, would like to deliver the following statement to address the circulating media gossip regarding Augen’s preloaded apps.

    On July, 29 2010 Augen had a constructive conversation with Google Inc. The topic of the discussion was Google’s Application Suite. As you know, Google Inc. has released the source code for the entire Android platform under the flexible and commercial-friendly Apache 2.0 open source license.  Augen is free to use that open source code; however, the suite of applications comprising Google Mobile Services on Android are proprietary to Google and have not been released under open source licenses. The Google Mobile Service and Android Apps were pre installed during the development process on our tablets for testing purposes, and were not removed unintentionally before releasing the products in the market place.

    Google and Augen came to a mutual understanding that the Google Mobile Services Application Suite pre-installed on the GENTOUCH/ GENBOOK Series; could not be removed due to technological constraints for the products that were sold, shipped, or already produced.

    For future production runs and deliveries, Augen will block and remove the Google Mobile Services Application Suite from the current devices until further notice. We are currently in communication with Google Inc. to obtain the required licensing for upcoming products, and will announce in our future statements the timelines and availability of these products as it will become available to us. However, for your convenience Augen will add applications to accommodate the absence of the Google Mobile Services Application Suite.

    OUR COMMITMENT TO YOU…

    The future of Augen holds a key to develop market conscious products with a vision of delivering the latest and emerging technologies, being available and affordable to every household, big/small corporation in the United States of America and worldwide.

    We are at the final stages of releasing an entire new line of products which incorporates the newest technology and concepts, that will make a difference in your every day lives. We encourage you our Gen Nation, to follow the exciting products that Augen will be unveiling in the very near future. We are here to put the world at your fingertips and take you beyond the realm of the market that exists today, bringing you with us into a new era of open world communication and computing.

    We are a US based company and understand and incorporate your wishes, desires, and requirements in our company’s DNA. We are here for you and are looking for your continued support, and excitement in our current and future releases.

    Gary Gofman
    CEO
    Augen Electronics Corp.

  7. Geewhipped Says:

    So Gary…
    was it also a mistake that my box says:
    Download hundreds of apps from ANDROID MARKET.

    the words “false advertising” come to mind.

    did anybody bother to actually USE one of these before you began shipping them to kmart? your QC dept leaves something to be desired.

  8. Bryan Says:

    This not only gives a bad name to the Augen company, but as well the Kmart company. The fact that Augen falsely advertised the usage of the Droid Market is damaging to the already damaged Kmart reputation. Also, this seems to be a lie that it wasn’t intentionally installed since, right on the box it says “Download hundreds of apps from ANDROID MARKET.” This means it was intentionally installed on the device. Was it ever tested to work? Most likely no. Will they ever obtain the license? More than likely no. Will this damage Kmart’s reputation? Yes.

  9. jj Says:

    Look google sucks , any mega corp sucks, and you don’t understand how it got on the shelves at kmart, same way all the lead gets there. wake up you zombie, your brainwashed

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