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Mobile Platforms: Open or Closed?

by Travis Harvey | November 16, 2009November 16, 2009 6:56 pm PDT

openandroidIt’s not an argument that we haven’t heard before.  Most recognizable, the war between Microsoft and Apple was essentially that.  As we’ve transitioned a huge focus to mobile operating systems, the same argument carries over.  This time the focus shifts to Apple and Google.  Which platform will ultimately succeed?

Google’s been one of the biggest advocates pushing a more open platform.  The fewer restrictions of an open platform like Android strongly appeal to developers.  This mentality draws in developers that can create applications for a device that wouldn’t always be possible on a more restricted platform.  There is a point where too open can become troublesome.  A great example comes from Steve Gillmor’s “Gillmor Gang” podcast.  Email is probably the most open platform in the world.  Unfortunately, anyone can email you whether you want them to or not.

Apple takes the exact opposite approach, one with many more restrictions.  While any developer can create applications for the iPhone, every single one must be tested and verified through Apple.  This allows for a tighter control of the user experience, one of Apple’s most recognized philosophies.  Applications like Google Voice have been restricted under the more closed App Store.  Many argue that these restrictions don’t allow the owner of the device to use it however they want.

It’s funny that we never really hear a push for open platforms to become more closed.  Instead, nearly every closed platform is being urged to become more open, allowing developers to help unlock a device’s potential.  Apple’s reluctance to open the iPhone platform is nothing new and isn’t likely to change.  Does this mean they won’t succeed in the long run? No.  Does the openness of Google’s Android guarantee the OS’s success? No.  There’s room for both to succeed in the mobile world.

We want to know how you feel about closed platforms.  Are they destined to be overshadowed as the mass market adopts more open standards?  Drop a line in the comments.


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