Is Motorola loosening the reins on hacking?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: March 6, 2011

One of the biggest advantages of Android is its being open source. Not only can you completely customize the way it looks with themes and launcher replacement apps, you can also manipulate nearly every aspect of the operating system, if you so wish. Whether sticking to stock or flashing custom ROMs (manipulated versions of the operating system) is your bag, you can make Android entirely yours.

The problem is, some manufacturers aren't exactly supportive of all the development that goes on. Of the powerhouse Android manufacturers, Motorola is probably the most against rooting and hacking. Software – codenamed eFuse – on the Droid X was put in place to try to keep people from tampering with the bootloader. If unsigned software was flashed to the device, it would not boot until signed software was reinstalled. Fortunately, developers got smart and found a workaround. No other manufacturers have gone to such lengths to prevent users from hacking.

We were hoping – since developers are relentless and will more than likely find a workaround – Motorola would eventually give up. A few months back though, they made it very clear that locked down bootloaders weren't going anywhere.

The funny thing is, they have actually done very little to impede the hacking of the XOOM. The bootloader on their tablet is extremely easy to unlock and re-lock; it takes one command in a command prompt and a little know-how. I've rooted and hacked every Android device I've ever owned, and nothing has been so easy to unlock and root as the XOOM.

They also said that when you ship your XOOM to them for the LTE upgrade, they will still install the 4G modem and try to install the software update, even if it is sent in running unauthorized software. They recommend you revert it back to stock and re-lock the bootloader, but it isn't mandatory.

Is this support for development a tell tale for what we should expect from Motorola in the future? I'm not so sure, but I would like to think so (one can dream, right?). Motorola still believes that BLUR is the best thing since sliced bread. As futile as their efforts may be, I think they will try their best to force users to use it, and keep them from removing it or manipulating it in any way.

I have a feeling that all of this support for developers and hacking comes from the tight-knit, vertical integration that Motorola had with Google on the production of the XOOM. We know Google wants us to have fun with their software and push limits, I just hope some of that open source mentality rubbed off on Motorola when they were working so closely together. It could also be that BLUR isn't installed on the XOOM. Considering it's 100% Google's software, Motorola probably couldn't care less what you do with it.

Even if they don't plan on scrapping locked down bootloaders and MOTOBLUR, maybe they will realize how much easier it is not to care. What do you guys and gals think? Is Motorola turning over a new leaf? Are they learning to embrace and cherish developers? Or is this a one-time thing?

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