Open or Closed is one of the biggest debates when it comes to mobile devices and platforms. It is one of the biggest differences you’ll find between Apples iOS and Google’s Android. The interesting thing about this however, is that both try and offer a sort of Walled Garden, one stricter than the other.
For the audience of these products, the end result of Apple using a closed platform is a central online Eco-System where you can backup contacts and photos, sync music and purchase applications all from your iPhone, your computer or your iPad in any location whenever you want. Try and leave the this garden Apple has created for you, and you’ll find the task of moving from iOS to another platform to be a whole lot less than easy. This is something vaguely covered in last weeks post about Walled Gardens, if you missed that.
This is much more strict than what can be done on Google’s Android platform, which is open source, and uses other open technologies within it. This means that other software developers can make programs and hardware that works across all Android (and often older Nokia or other) devices. Things like a common file type for contacts or a program for your computer that syncs music or files from wherever you like. This open style, plus the backing of Google and its online services does clearly demonstrate the benefits of an open system.
Open systems such as Android however do have their downsides – With so many manufactures and device specifications it is often the case that software and device fragmentation can exist in the market, where different devices with different hardware specifications can only run certain versions of the open OS.
Along with this, is the difference in design between manufacturers and their own versions of Android. For Developers, it means entering the App Marketplace through Apple and iTunes is a whole lot harder than it is to do the same with Android. Now, on one side of the coin, this can mean that there are more apps for Android to choose from, but it can also lead to a lot of junk and repeat apps that can leave us consumers frustrated – something which is mostly avoided through Apple’s App-proval process.
Overall, I think that some sort of amalgamation of the two is required. An open platform is going to have security issues, and a closed one is going to have trust issues. Yep, a middle-ground would be quite nice.