Android may not be as open as many would like with Google releasing the source-code to upcoming versions to specific partners in advance of general releases – but it is certainly a bucket-load more open than the iOS walled garden, and it has a thriving hacking/modding community built around it. The most widely used custom ROM (community created OS build) is from the folks at CyanogenMod. They are the group that are successfully porting Android to the HP TouchPad, and they are the ones that Sony Ericsson have reached out to for the FreeXperia project.
This project is aimed at users who want to add some of the extra functionality of the CyanogenMod ROM to their device, and avoid the manufacturer’s custom skin – and more specifically at users of SE’s latest Xperia smartphones – the Xperia Play and Xperia Arc. The company already released the option to unlock the bootloader of the newer Xperia phones earlier this year, but this goes further in actually supporting the developer community.
SE are still at pains to say on their blog that unlocking the bootloader on your Xperia phone and running a custom ROM like that offered by CyanogenMod may void your warranty – but embracing the hacker and modder community in this way shows an appreciation by the company of what these tinkerers can offer the more adventurous among their userbase.