Steve Jobs has always been somewhat of an enigma. During his latest appearance, he stirred the pot a bit while talking about competition from Google and RIM, as well as directing some shots at the idea of a 7″ tablet to compete with the iPad. Of course, several responses from those companies have been forthcoming.
In my opinion, the responses all show one thing: These companies are scared. I say this for RIM especially, who is having a hard time competing in the new market that has been opened up by Apple and Google. RIM reminds me of General Motors in their heyday. They had the top spot and became complacent, and now they are scrambling to catch up with an industry that threatens to pass them by.
But that’s not my point. By responding to Jobs’ “rant”, these companies only lend authenticity to what he said. Apple has always chosen to do things in a way that goes against the mainstream. The iPod, iPad and iPhone are no different. Advocates of Google Android call Apple’s way “closed” or a “walled garden”, meaning that you have to go through Apple for updates and applications. Android in contrast is more “open” as in the operating system can be modified by anyone who wants to and people are free to choose the devices (and to an extent the carrier) that meet their needs. They can also install applications from wherever they want.
Both approaches have merit. But as a consumer, I really don’t care. Why? Because I (and most others) care more about whether a particular device does what I need it to do, with as little fuss as possible. However, that fuss is starting to grow with Android. For example, if I buy an AT T; Android phone, the experience may be very different from a Verizon Android phone. The other day I read someone’s comments about “crapware” on their phone, that they couldn’t remove. Wait, wasn’t Android supposed to be open? Oh, I see – I need to root my phone to take that stuff off. But isn’t rooting my phone basically the same as jailbreaking an iPhone? Seems to me that the two aren’t all that different…
In the end, the differences between the two platforms are all relative. Look at the options, and choose the best tool for the job. The zealotry of the different sides misses the point – make the best products you can, and let people decide. Then we’ll see who’s approach is right and who’s wrong.