As Apple has become increasingly popular, so has the backlash against some of Apple’s restrictive practices. While this argument is getting new exposure in the ongoing Google (Android versus iPhone) spat, this has been going on since Apple’s inception.
It used to be (and still is in many ways) that Microsoft was the one that labeled Apple as a closed, restrictive platform. Although not an early proponent of open-source (read cheaper) software, Microsoft was quick to claim freedom of hardware and software choice as it’s main selling point.
So if Apple is a closed, restrictive platform why is it that Apple has become so popular?
It’s the user experience.
Apple wants the user experience to be the best that it can be. Secure, clean, focused, easy to use, and reliable. Quality over quantity. One really good chef’s knife, not a swiss army knife filled with a bunch of sub-par tools.
Great restaurants usually specialize in a specific cuisine, if you want ultimate freedom of choice, you’ll have to settle for Home Town Buffet.
Apple’s iPhone requires that developers meet not only technical requirements (secure, stable apps) but also moral (no porn) and non-compete (no FireFox) guidelines. What they give in return is arguably the best overall smartphone experience.
Google pretty much allows any handset maker to use Android as they will in their phones. The segmentation of user interfaces, non-upgradable software versions and non-centralized app store has hurt the overall customer experience. What customer’s get in return is more freedom of hardware configuration, multiple carriers and less restrictive app selection.
Apple is working on a more robust rating system (to allow for more adult apps) and is starting to allow more potentially completive apps (browsers, VOIPs and mail clients) into the app store. Google is trying to rein in Android by putting out phones like the Nexus One that deliver a more focused, Apple-like experience to Android.
While both Apple and Google may come a little closer together in terms of openness and experience, their philosophical differences (and current successes) will probably keep them on different ends of the spectrum.
What I find funny is that it looks like Microsoft may be the one running up the middle. Microsoft has finally begun to recognize Apple’s success with the iPhone and App Store. Windows 7 mobile looks to be more focused and selective while still partnering with different hardware vendors.
I for one can’t wait to see what cool new phones and technology come out of this tug of war.