Android / Open Vs Apple / Closed Systems Wars: It’s the same until it’s different
Reading some tech articles at lunch and I feel as if a large portion of the tech community is wrong about how the open (android/google platform) vs the more closed (apple) system will affect the mobile device / smartphone wars.
They are wrong because a large portion of them are assuming android based platforms will dominate and apple will die off in market share because the relatively more open app development/publishing process available on the android will eventually lead more apps being available (which is true) which will eventually lead users to prefer android platforms because of the greater number of apps (which is false in my opinion).
This theory is based on a few past situations:
Windows vs Apple: Windows provides a more open system which leads to significantly larger market share for Microsoft in the 80s. Windows then comes to dominate the desktop market because many programs are available on Windows but not Apple.
Playstation vs Saturn vs N64: Playstation has most friendly development platform of the three gaming consoles. N64 has the advantage of no loading times (with the use of cartridges as opposed to disk), which raised costs for 3rd party game developers. Saturn has a more advanced system in terms of system specs, but it’s relatively harder to develop for. Playstation has a massive victory.
Following this line of thought
Apple’s iOS vs Google’s Android vs Research in Motion’s platform (aka blackberry): The first thing to note is that blackberry has a strong business focus, which puts it almost in its own category. To a large extent, it has a stable basis of recurring revenue attributed to its common usage in the business community although it has made headway into the consumer market. As such, I’ll leave it out and instead focus on…
iOS vs Android: So the assumption among the tech community is that in the past, ease of software / application development usually = eventual victory.
Here’s where they are wrong though:
Mobile devices / Smart Phones by most consumers for the following purposes:
- Checking up on social media sites (facebook, twitter, foursquare)
- Location / direction assistance
These are all functions that can performed already on iPhones and android based mobile phones. So given that all primary functions are already quite efficient on mobile devices, the battle then changes to a question of:
- Battery Life - Apple products generally have better battery life because of the company’s focus on efficient simple design
- Reliability - The closed end system makes it easier to keep track of applications to prevent any of them from causing an unstable system.
- Ease of use / User Interface - Apple’s best known quality right there, simple/intuitive user interface
- Security - A closed end system allows for a more secure atmosphere
All four of these arenas is where Apple is dominating.
The only benefit of the open end system is more applications, however there are already thousands of applications (with thousands more each month) and hundreds of which do the exact / similar things or are completely useless.
Let’s say that hypothetically, there is a great application that appears on Android platform but isn’t available on the iPhone. Two things can happen:
- If it blows up in popularity, then that developer will create a similar app on the iPhone and RIMM. After all, more users = more profits.
- They decide on principle not to develop for Apple. In which case, another app developer will create something very similar in functionality for the iPhone and blackberry and reap all the benefits from the initial creator’s idea. End of the day, iPhone will still get any unique attractive App that pops up on the Android platform first if it is great. Those great apps are all that really matters at the end of the day.
Relative to larger desktop based application, mobile apps are relatively smaller and simpler. As such, it is hard for me to imagine where a situation will play out in which the additional apps on the Android platform ever becomes an advantage. It’s the nature of the beast, that an great app will be replicated (and quickly too) given the fact that mobile apps are smaller, simpler and faster to develop then say desktop apps. This isn’t the 90’s where a great large clunky desktop application/program on the Windows takes several years before it appears on Apple.
For the developers believing that Apple is going “lose” to Android because of the open vs closed system nature of the two platforms, you are grossly mistaken. Apple might loose, but the open vs closed system won’t be the reason. There, it’s off my chest.