Android vs. iPhone: Why Openness May Not Be Best

102 Comments

Open or perish. It’s a meme that’s been embraced as fact ever since Eric Raymond published his seminal essay, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar.” If you are not “open,” (i.e., open source or open APIs), you don’t get it, and you’re destined for obsolescence. But while there is an appealing logic to this premise, the reality just isn’t that black and white, especially when it comes to the mobile arena.

Consider the different approaches to openness taken by the two companies with (arguably) the greatest product differentiation, most thriving ecosystems and potent cash-flow generation engines in the business: Apple (s AAPL) and Google (s GOOG). The former (Apple) is more proprietary, with an integrated approach to hardware, software and service. The latter (Google) is generally perceived to be more open, taking a “loosely coupled” approach to systems and services. Both are breakout businesses, with legions of devoted followers. So which approach is better?

Apple is widely lauded for delivering a superb user experience, offering great synergy and seamless integration across its different product offerings, but it’s also an occasional bully, self-selecting which services and offerings it anoints as value-adds, and which it blocks as deleterious (Flash) or redundant (Podcaster).

Google, by contrast, is pretty prodigious in terms of rolling out a lot of product offerings, and its openness has encouraged the proverbial thousand flowers to bloom (e.g., site-optimized mapping functions have become endemic to many third-party sites, thanks to Google Maps). Critics note, however, that many of Google’s products are uninspired and unfocused from a product lifecycle perspective.

So, let’s look at Apple’s iPhone platform, and compare its prospects to those of Google’s Android.

With the iPhone, Apple has collapsed desktop, mobile, web and media experiences and integrated them across hardware, software and service layers, in the process delivering a great user experience, creating a thriving marketplace (via iTunes and the App Store) and catalyzing a powerful developer ecosystem (more than 20,000 apps and 500 million downloads). Naysayers counter that Apple’s approach is proprietary, and thus, doomed to entropy.

Android, by contrast, is open source, isn’t married to specific hardware or service providers, and addresses the segment of the mobile device builder market not named Apple or BlackBerry maker RIM (s rimm).

Android enthusiasts tell a story that sounds like the Microsoft vs. Apple PC Wars. A visionary, but proprietary hardware/software vendor starts making money hand over fist when into the void comes a software vendor that works with multiple hardware OEMs (and service providers) and over time becomes ubiquitous, relegating the proprietary vendor to niche status. This time, the story ends with Google triumphantly emerging as the unified stack that ties together mobile, PC and web universes.

There’s one small fly in the ointment, however. While device makers can do pretty much “anything” with an open platform, in order to deliver a superior user experience, Google will either have to take on the burden of supporting “anything” or set limits on what will work on any particular instantiation of the platform.

Of course, setting limits makes Android less open, reducing leverage across the entire ecosystem. It’s a problem for all open source platforms, and as an old embedded systems guy, I can tell you that all the issues are only magnified with mobile devices. Why? Because performance, reliability and user experience really matter with mobile devices, making integration key, which is a conundrum for the open source approach.

The reality is that openness is just an attribute -– it’s not an outcome, and customers buy outcomes. They want the entire solution and they want it to work predictability. Only a tiny minority actually cares about how or why it works. It’s little wonder, then, that the two device families that have won the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of consumers, developers and service providers alike (i.e., BlackBerry and iPhone) are the most deeply integrated from a hardware, software and service layer perspective.

That’s not to say that these challenges aren’t solvable, but it is suggestive that the inevitability of Android is far from a straight line, and that open vs. proprietary is less absolute than the zealots would like to believe.

Mark Sigal is a digital media and Internet platform entrepreneur who has done eight startups, four of them as a co-founder.

102 Comments

allen

“while Microsoft and Google are stuck in 20th century OS design, Apple has something build in already”

@Ronald: Damn right! Multitasking is so 20th century.

ronald

What’s interesting is, people look at the iPhone and see an advanced UI. I look at my iPhone and think it teaches all it’s developers about context. Right now it’s the security context, or compartment their applications can run in. But what is the difference between a security context and a context given meaning to data?
It’s just one more step if you have learned to think about context.
So while Microsoft and Google are stuck in 20th century OS design, Apple has something build in already Google is just starting to realize.
“Meanwhile, our understanding of the interplay between high-quality content, search algorithms, and personal information is just beginning.”
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/from-height-of-this-place.html

Where personal information is personal context. You most likely want that in security compartments for obvious reasons. Question is was that by design or pure luck?

Zacqary Adam Green

GigaOM is powered by WordPress, an open source application running on the open standards of PHP, SQL, XHTML, etc. In fact, there are very few major players in web technology that aren’t open, except for Flash, which Adobe seems to be making more and more open every day. While Android may not be as well-integrated an experience as the iPhone, it’s definitely more forward thinking to the near future when no calculations besides input, output, and network are actually done by client devices.

In other words, Android vs. iPhone isn’t going to matter within the next five years.

lrd

It’s pretty simple to me: Apple makes the PCs, best MP3s and
the best cell phones. Why keep debating what the last 30 years
of data have clearly stated???

Ross Mason

Kevin, For the most part I think you are right but an open platform is a more appealing long term goal for phone vendors and software vendors. Limits will have to be put on Android in order for it to flourish in the mainstream (it’s pretty far from mainstream right now). this will impact the openness of the platform in the same way Linux has been limited. It’s taken a long time for Linux and it still isn’t quite mainstream (NetBooks might get it there), I expect the Android market to behave in a similar way with an accelerated curve. In the meantime Apple have a pretty easy ride getting people to buy into their “walled garden”. Android is definitely a long-term play. I made some predictions about the Android market last week: http://rossmason.blogspot.com/2009/02/android-predictions.html

Cheers,

Ross
http://twitter.com/rossmason

Mark Sigal

@Kontra, that is a really good point, and I am admittedly behind the curve on Pre (other than what I’ve read), but it well illustrates your point about being too open as a seeming hindrance every bit as much as being too closed is. Will check out the post. ☺

@Greg, that any PC owner can not follow the logic on the obvious sacrifices of performance, reliability and user experience in the PC realm demands a, “Huh, are you serious?” Oh, the many times it took 15+ minutes to restart Outlook, while my PST file had to be rebuilt for reasons I know not why; how performance degrades as more and more applications are launched, blue screens of death, let alone death by feature overkill. Office upgrade anyone?

To be clear, Apple is far from perfect in this realm, but I see this as a clear distinction between PC and mobile/media device realm. You can’t have phone calls hanging because some rogue process is taking your system down, you can’t have songs skipping because emails just arrived, etc., etc. Case in point, my Blackberry 7130. Unsexy, does two things really well – email and phone, doesn’t let a bunch of other stuff get in the way with that experience. Indispensable.

@ronald, interesting comments, and part of my knee jerk wrt open is that it is great where there are agreed upon, ubiquitously embraced standards or broad built in leverage to solve the problem at hand (as the solution builder defines it, not broad industry). Often, open is just a rallying cry, to which I counter that the great thing about open standards is that there are so many to choose from. That said, there are plenty of areas where there is little goodness to recreating the wheel, ample and diverse data points on all variants of the use case scenarios which benefit from wisdom of crowds contribution, and the layer of the stack is not where a business’s secret sauce lies. Everyone can theoretically agree on open is good until it gets to their proprietary differentiation layer, and then things become less open. Understandably, open Google doesn’t give you source to Google Search and you can’t use AdSense/AdWords to knock off Google’s PPC advertising business. As to Google’s innovation culture, Om had a great post on this one a week or so ago.

Mark Sigal

@Kevin, you nail it. Windows is largely a homogeneous platform so they never had to deal with a bunch of form factors, proprietary services of the carriers or the phone makers themselves (although plenty of hardware abstraction layer complexity, to be sure). In case of mobile, this starts to become a divergence point. A simple example here is that as a developer, if I can write one application for Android versus 15 (to support a lot of device variants), life is good. If I have to write 15 versions, that forces me to either build a lowest common denominator application or pick and choose. To be clear, this is one of the dilemmas Apple could easily face as they morph the platform into different form factors.

@Tom B, thanks for the comments. I think history shows that the PC is more of a homogeneous platform, and that consumers were willing to sacrifice performance and experience for price and platform uniformity in this realm. I think that they are trying to get away from this in mobile, which is why iPhone/iPod have become huge successes. Specific to history of PC, hat’s off to MS, though. As much as I am no longer a fan of Windows, their approach in PC wars is the singular reason that a PC on every desktop is a reality. An interesting data point is that there was a point in time when the whole integrated Mac experience was a core differentiator, and another when it was nominally better but not enough to counter the massive R&D associated with an OEM oriented platform (read Apple by Jim Carlton for more fodder on this one). Now, with rise of iPod and iPhone, desktop is becoming somewhat of an integrated media/info center so Apple has a self-affirming feedback, something I blogged about in:

“Holy Sh-t! Apple’s Halo Effect” (http://thenetworkgarden.bcom/weblog/2008/04/holy-shit-apple.html).

I think that this variable still is very potent in mobile/media especially, but history suggests that that might not always be the case. A lot of the opportunity is enabled by virtue of Microsoft somewhat collapsing upon itself. It would be a different game if they got their execution mojo back.

@Praveen, along those lines, there was a good post on VentureBeat last week teasing Android, saying that for an open platform they sure have a lot of restrictions. To your point, the more you try and reconcile your own selfish business goals, partner requirements and consumer experience needs, the more you start making seemingly binary choices. Case in point Hulu blocking Boxee just last week. Thanks again for the comments.

ronald

Open always carries the implied Wisdom of the crowds. But it you try to quantify that you end up with something like( simplified and abbreviated):

wotc = soc *(probability * pobtdh)

wotc = Wisdom of the crowds
soc = size of crowd
pobtdh = permutation of been there done that (fail or success)

Which basically tells us that the wisdom of the crowds is best used to avoid mistakes of the past, and since it’s based on experience it’s a short term data based approach. But it’s really good at stabilizing a system, hence Linux is pretty stable. But progress in Linux (kernel) is directed by one Person Linus, who is happy with short term stable progress.
On the other hand Steve J seems not to care about the wotc, and Microsoft and Google are run by it.
So why is Microsoft so bad on security? Well it’s a long term thing and has to be designed and build in from the beginning, but crowds don’t like long term things. In contrast of Linux which is based on a few peoples ideas (Unix) who had some good design goals and a multi-user system in mind and didn’t care to much about wotc at the time of design.

We’ll see how Google handles long term design goals, so far I’m not impressed.

Mark Sigal

@ Screen Sleuth, don’t get me wrong. It’s way to early to reach conclusions about Android. We’ve seen the appetizer but the main course has yet to arrive. Always remiss to reach conclusions about barely 1.0 offerings.

@HereAndNow, I totally agree with your thinking, and this is closer to the LAMP model but I think that Google’s goals with Android are bigger, and to be clear, it’s not merely UI, but core services, developer tools, back-end marketplace functions, a whole gestalt that have to come together to be more than a “SO WHAT, it’s better (sort of) than a typical Motorola and Nokia phone, but not a game changer.” That’s the conundrum – go for units and ubiquity or differentiated experience and high margin business – not absolutes but harder to execute in a loosely couple, open model, I believe.

@Jefferey McManus, thanks and agreed. Open means a lot of different things to different people. Part of point of post is not confusing attributes with outcomes, as many in this business do. I would reframe even disruption as applied disruption, as disruption for disruption sake is great if you are trying to kill someone’s business model but it may not be same as building a breakout business. Craigslist comes to mind as a pure disruptor – legions of dead but just a modest, albeit hugely successful, business.

ardaz

OK so now we’ve read the opening paragraph, where’s the rest of the argument?
I don’t disagree with what has been written but there is a lot more to the scenario than presented here. Where is the app developers perspective, or the carrier’s or indeed the users viewpoint. This could be a really interesting starting point for a discussion but it just doesn’t go far enough.

greg

As if “performance, reliability and user experience” don’t matter with my computer desktop?

Sorry, but I fail to see the logic trail here.

ghunda

How many instances are there where consumers chose (paid) for open solutions when closed solutions were also available? What comes to mind specifically is the video game industry. Most console owners are also PC owners. Instead of just buying the game (typically about $10 cheaper) for the PC, they spent extra money for a console and more money per game. The console is closed and proprietary with Nintendo, Sony, and now Microsoft leading the pack (though yes, Sony having particular problems at the moment). It is an industry dominated by the consumers choice to pay for the closed system.

As best as I can tell, across industries, open is an exception, not the standard. The only people who make noise are developers.

Kontra

“The open source community seems to value openness more than innovation. In the post-iPhone era, for example, Android (while open source and backed by the largest Internet company) isn’t leading the innovation charge. That honor belongs to Palm (another propriatery, vertically-integrated platform) with its upcoming Pre.

Ironically, if the iPhone platform can fail to dominate the smartphone market because it’s too closed, the Android platform may fail because it’s too open.”

Agora phone exposes Android’s Achilles Heel
http://counternotions.com/2009/01/19/agora/

Adam

Can I just mention that Kogan are just an importer of cheap rip off goods from Asia. They have never had quality products and it comes as no surprise that they would bring out an Android phone based on some cheap BlackBerry rip off. I feel this would never be an issue for a company like HTC, Motorola or Samsung who would adhere to standards. Don’t blame the OS because a hardware manufacturer is trying to cut costs and make a bad phone. I’m sure as with any OS, PC, Phone or otherwise, there are minimum specs to run it. Try installing Windows XP on a computer that can’t deliver more that 640×480. It’ll install but some apps won’t run very well because there’s not enough screen res.

SS

You realized that the consumer will have to break his head to figure out which one is better.

Praveen

Hi Mark,

I think you missed another point here. The lack of openness on mobile platforms may also be attributed to the restrictions imposed by carriers. Think about this, the joost app on iphone works with wi-fi but not with 3G, because ATT wouldn’t want it that way. On an android there would be no such restriction, but is it good for t-mobile? Apple is trying to balance the interests of the consumers, the carriers and themselves. Google will not be able to deliver that with their openness.

Let there be a few bittorrent clients on android and let people start downloading movies on their android phones and lets see the reaction from t-mobile. :)

– Praveen.

Tom B

“The reality is that openness is just an attribute -– it’s not an outcome, and customers buy outcomes.”

Well said. The reason Open Source worked so well in the ’90’s is that the developers of Mozilla, Apache, and such were only competing against MSFT, and those guys are hopelessly inept.

As for “open” platforms (completely different from Open SOFTWARE, run by volunteers), like Windows, with many OEM’s– many believe this so-called “competition” between Dell, Gateway, HP jump-started the PC industry. In fact, it has been a disaster; it is one reason Macs area always better– the “whole widget” is designed at once.

Tom B

“The reality is that openness is just an attribute -– it’s not an outcome, and customers buy outcomes.”

Well said. The reason Open Source worked so well in the ’90’s is that the developers of Mozilla, Apache, and such were only competing against MSFT, and those guys are hopelessly inept.

As for “open” platforms (completely different from Open SOFTWARE, run by volunteers), like Windows, with many OEM’s– many believe this so-called “competition” between Dell, Gateway, HP jump-started the PC industry. In fact, it has been a disaster; it is one reason Macs area always better– the “whole widget” is designed at once.

Nicholas Paredes

We are focusing our efforts on the iPhone for the simple reason that the platform is performing in terms of customers actually making purchases of content and applications. Additionally, we support two devices and three versions, as opposed to “supporting anything.” This is key from a design perspective. Much content should simply not be on every mobile device, regardless of the network capabilities. If we are looking at visual marketing, why should a small screen be considered visual? The iPhone and the G1 are the minimum, but until Android has interactions which separate it from the mobile web, application development, and our efforts, will be stuck in the past.

I certainly do not condone Apple’s behavior with the respect to applications. Our platform would frankly be perfect for paid adult content, but we have decided to avoid that, as has Apple. But podcasting! Come on! Mobile OS X is several years old, and it will grow. Hopefully, Apple will grow in it’s comfort with competitive content, and not quite offensive content. Can we say the word f*ck already! Mobile OS X is BSD, just like the real one. An open version would be cool. I doubt that will materialize though, but it could cut Android off at the knees. In that scenario Apple would retain the interface. OpenMoko running Mobile Darwin!

Mathew

The big problem with android is not the platform itself. The platform is wonderful. When it comes to android is marketing. First off the G1 is a horaable looking device. Its a brick basically with a keyboard. Most people dont even know what a OS is. So you need a pretty phone first to hook the people in. The g1 is not this phone. The hard were on the phone is barly enough to run the os without it crashing. If android was marketed better it might do well. But they re no where close in terms with apple. Apple has a giant grip in the mobil market . Anything that comes out that has touch in it will be compared to the iphone. Android needs to not go up adgest iphone but come out as a alrtintive to iphone

HereAndNow

@kevin

In the first part I stated that the stack should remain intact, so applications launch & run properly on all Android devices (i.e. to avoid application fragmentation).

The UI changes I am talking about are the layout of the screen, the organization of the app launchers, whether hardware buttons or GUI buttons are used, colors, graphics, etc.

Touch Revolution is one company using Android for home appliances. At CES, they demonstrated some totally different screen interfaces for Android.

tim

Gotta agree with kevin. Looking at expanding into the mobile space, there’s so much that’s appealing in Apple’s end-to-end approach and only 1 physical device format. How do you develop for Android if the platform specs change? It’s the browser wars all over again. Yes, it’s a surmountable problem, but it’s taken years to work out of the chaos that created, and that just gives Apple more time to solidify its position.

Apple really has created a great little mobile space that’s super developer-friendly (i’m judging only by # of apps created by indies), and via iTunes has created a viable revenue-generating marketplace. Most of that credit has to go to the relatively simplicity that comes with developing and supporting a single device, IMO.

commonsguy

“…in order to deliver a superior user experience, Google will either have to take on the burden of supporting “anything” or set limits on what will work on any particular instantiation of the platform.”

As the Brits like to say, bollocks.

First, “superior user experience” is in the eye of the beholder. I have had two iPods, including an iPod Touch, and I dumped both of them. In particular, for me, the iPod Nano’s user experience was dreadful. Clearly, there are any number of people who think the iPod line is the epitome of user experience…and for them, it probably is. For others, like myself, it is not. To assume there is a single definition of “superior user experience” flies in the face of reality.

Second, Google itself does not necessarily have to lift a finger to deliver a “superior user experience”. Case in point: TiVo. Some people think the TiVo’s user experience is “superior”, while others do not. However, there is little question that Linus Torvalds and Linux did not “have to take on the burden of supporting “anything” or set limits on what will work on any particular instantiation of the platform” for TiVo to create its user experience. Android is not significantly different. Some device makers will create a platform that uses Android as a foundation but delivers their own flavor of “superior user experience” (a la Sonar, http://www.engadget.com/2009/02/19/sonar-hopes-to-power-social-featurephones-we-get-a-demo-2/). Some device makers will ship vanilla Android for people whose idea of a “superior user experience” involves their own level of customization. Other device makers may take yet other approaches.

In fact, it is only through having an open platform that Android will be able to meet the varied definitions of “superior user experience”, because it will take more than one firm (Google) to implement those definitions.

rmbgi

I agree. Each person’s user experience differs. I have seen many iPod user not happy with the user experience.

In 1999 -2002 Apple had iLife suite. ( iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and Garageband.) Those days mp3 was on the computers with iTunes or quicktime on Mac and WMplayer or Winamp on windows. Thought there where thousands of mp3 player non of them were good in easily handling 100 or more song.

I used to take my laptop where ever i go to play music. Sometimes thumb drives. Now in 2001 Apple introduced iPod. Its meant to sync all my music of my laptop (i.e iTunes). So, virtually all my iBook music is with me in the form of iPod (with same playlist and songs i organized on my itunes).

Later version allowed me to sync contacts, Photos from iPhoto, Home made movies by iMovies, my calender etc.
Now Apple has wireless devices like Apple TV, iPhone and me.com . I have to just say sync. Nothing more.

This is one of the best experience i have found on any computer platform. Its the approach many people fail understand.
Once the library iPhoto, iTunes, is build and synced. Its there with just few clicks away.

So, iPod can be best used if you have a organized iTunes , iPhoto libraries and contact, calender works on iPhone, iPod which is great.

Bottom Line>>>>> Common data is Music, Photos, Videos, Contacts, Calender and more

While on the move. My iPhone lets me access the common data. During jogs my iPod let’s me access the common data, While watching Apple TV lets it lets me access the common data and while i’m a Mac its the Common data and even if i’m abroad still i have access to my common data with me.com

So, Virtually i can carry any device and not stuck to just laptop. Imagine this the way Apple works from 2000.

seth Polevoy

you hit the nail on the head…..all of your personal information (music, photos, contacts, calendar, videos, etc) sits in one place and can be synced easily to many devices from anywhere you might be. Nothing can be more convenient and simplistic than that, and only someone who’s experienced that convenience and simplicity can appreciate Apple’s approach to a closed system. Great comment rmbig.
I guarantee if anyone commenting on this board used all of Apple’s products (music, photo, video, contacts, calendar and apple tv) for a few months, they would finally understand the benefits of what Apple is doing to make getting your “common data” easily accessible from anywhere. Unfortunately, unless you’ve experienced it, you can never quite understand or appreciate it……….This comment is coming from someone who got frustrated with the constant bugs of a Windows Environment (freezing, resetting, viruses, help desk calls at 10 oclock at night) and was willing to try an easier way (though more expensive) to streamline everything easily…happy holidays to all

Hugh Isaacs II

You really have to take into account how much work was put into the iPhones OS before release and how much work was put into Android before release (along with the fact that it uses components of the already polished Mac OS X).

Android is technically a rushed product.

It has nothing to do with being Open or not, it’s just how much time was put into each product.

At some point, Android may catch up to the iPhone or even surpass it (in some ways it already has).

Phoneboy

I am inclined to agree with this. Just a cursory glance at the Issues list shows where the prorities of people are. There’s a very loud minority screaming for FLAC support. FLAC. Something that is a definite minority when it comes to audio formats. But getting FLAC on Android is one of the highest voted issues right now. The completely broken and almust unusable email client? Farther on down the list.
It’s all too common in the OSS world – functionality is far less important than whiz-bang-flash stuff.

I can’t pick what IMAP folders I want to use for what (Like I need my phone creating its own Sent folder!) but soon I’ll be able to listen to FLAC on my phone. :|

Frederik

[quote]functionality is far less important than whiz-bang-flash stuff.[/quote]
Funny — that’s what free software people keep saying about the closed world.

Anyway, I think one of the reason why FLAC not being support is a big thing to people with android is that it’s expected to be there — after all Android is running a Linux stack where FLAC support is pratically always a given.

I suspect the issues with email not being high on the list has to do with people having android phones properly don’t use their phones for email all that much. Besides, it’s pratically a given that the issue will be fixed — it’s too important not to.

kevin

“Where vendors may diverge is at the UI level…to differentiate their products. ”

The problem is if the vendor UIs diverge too much, the application market will become fragmented. Windows not only provided a common hardware interface, it provided a common user interface for all PC applications.

jbrandonf

So? It’s just the UI that would be fragmented, not available apps or other customizations. Look at the HTC Hero for example.

Kevin Shaum

> Android (at least until now) has pretty much been an ignoble flop in terms of sales (i.e. the G1)

And the Mac was an equally “‘ignoble flop” at a time when the only available Mac was the 128K ‘toaster’ in 1984. *Way* too early to call winners and losers.

Android’s strength, in my opinion, will become visible when it starts to branch out beyond phones: we should be seeing Android-based netbooks by year end, and there’s no reason it couldn’t run on full-power notebooks or even desktops eventually.

Anyway, this article generally suffers from the Highlander Fallacy: the belief that in the end, there can be only one. In practice some people will prefer closed, some will prefer open, and different providers will serve each group.

Ezequiel Santamaria

“Android’s strength, in my opinion, will become visible when it starts to branch out beyond phones: we should be seeing Android-based netbooks by year end, and there’s no reason it couldn’t run on full-power notebooks or even desktops eventually”

Nothing Apple hasn’t done already… just so you know, the iPhone is a Mac OS X mobile version….
Apple is one step ahead in that matter.
I agree with your second statement, there can obviously be many players, the idea here is which one will have the biggest market share.
The answer so far, is obvious, not Android anytime soon.
RIM and Apple are at the top, and Apple’s market is growing while RIM has become stable.

Jeffrey McManus

I think that “openness” (and I use quotes here intentionally because there are so many definitions of what that is, exactly) is just one tactic that technology providers can use. It’s important to understand that “open” is not an end but a means to an end. For most businesses, the objective is disruption.

Shane

Clearly and well stated. This isn’t too different from all of the hullabaloo over DRM. Truth is most people don’t care, just a loud, vocal minority who, being a very web integrated group, are disproportionately represented in the comments blocks on websites where such issues are covered.

HereAndNow

Re: “device makers can do pretty much anything”

I think it will be in the interest of all vendors using Android, to try to stay mainstream on the stack. That way they benefit from collective development, testing, support & documentation. It also ensures that all Android apps run on all Android devices.

Where vendors may diverge is at the UI level…to differentiate their products. In some cases, it may not even be obvious that Android is running underneath.

If what I said is true, then the stack will be the responsibility of the OHA members (including Google) while the UI customizations will be the responsibility of the vendor making them.

Screen Sleuth

Android (at least until now) has pretty much been an ignoble flop in terms of sales (i.e. the G1), so its already a conclusion that being “open” doesn’t guarantee audience interest. It needs big time work before it will really be ready for prime time.

David Roach

This is such a great article. I could not agree more with what you have said here. I too have come from a long engineering background and find the Apple platform being closed is more attractive to developers and consumers alike. All of the issues you brought up are spot on and only contribute to the fact that to increase the usability, stability and ultimately user experience of a product it is much easier to worry less about the specific hardware the software is running on.

You can go further and abstract back to the OS wars. Apple having control of the hardware and its OS allows the user experience to be the same across the board. To me, a consistent user experience is critical to a mobile platform. I agree with Apple’s approach to not allow multi-threading of apps. This would inevitably cause usability issues.

I was a Windows developer for 18 years and since I now develop on Apple, I must say, the advantages the closed system offers out weighs the openness 10 fold.

Android will dilute the user experience by having SO many devices and software will have to adapt to these devices etc. Eventually, something like the DROID may get some traction at which point developers will code explicitly for the device. If this happens and explicit development occurs for a particular Android device, you might as well have a closed system like Apple.

That’s my 2 cents worth.

Mark Sigal

@David, thanks for the note, and put a bow around your comment, “Eventually, something like the DROID may get some traction at which point developers will code explicitly for the device. If this happens and explicit development occurs for a particular Android device, you might as well have a closed system like Apple.” My guess is that few people get the ramifications of this one.

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