The Problem with Open – Android vs iPhone.

There has been lots of talk about Apple is doomed to fail with the iPhone as a software Platform and the Android platform is going to be so much better, simple because its open.

Firstly, take a look at the iPhone. Its a fantastically designed device, and the attention to detail is insane – that’s not to say the Android platform isn’t. But it is a sensible justification that the platform needs to slightly closed to allow a continuity of quality to be maintained. Secondly, the iTunes to iPhone facility has yet to face any real competition, its far from perfect but there is a seamless connection from buying to using. You click buy and the app or music is downloaded and synced to your phone, without having to drag and drop, move or do anything manually. However there is growing concern that the closed nature of the platform will be its undoing see Pull My Finger [1]

Lets be fair, the Android platform does has some major advantages. Anything, anyone and everything can be developed for it, its open. The Android developers needn’t be the best usability experts, they just wait for the experts to develop there own slick UI for the system – but here in lies a pitfall, how open is open. For instance T-Mobile have already said that the G1 shouldn’t be used as at tethered device [2], and there are also limits to how much you can actually do, before it starts to impact on stability of the system, something vitally important if it is to really go head to head with the iPhone.

I am all for the open platform, but the average Joe consumer it makes no difference, really super cool device (iPhone) or clunky lucking no the less cool device (T-Mobile G1) 

So open shouldn’t really be open?

I think the main problem with an open platform is you end up with far too much choice, which is fine for a geek. The average consumer wants simple, so I would hope that there are some very clear limits placed on developing for the Android, i.e. you can use this much and no more, you can’t access the … etc this means that stability can be maintained. 

Its the problem Microsoft has always had, you can’t be all things to all people and you can’t ensure everything works all of the time, which in-part open source solves the problem. But also pretty soon you can end up with the same phone running radically different programs and processes. Whilst some people may favor this model, it isn’t good business. Especially when going after the Goliath that the iPhone has become.

The Android Platform and the G1 have promise but I don’t think this iteration of the idea will make much of a dent on the iPhone at least not with the core consumer, but I can see the early adopters of the world moving of to Android.

As a developer I would develop for both, as I consumer I would have the iPhone, as a Geek I would have the Android. So I will end up with both in my pocket.

Written whilst listening to TWiT 162

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