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Open vs Proprietary Mobile Software: Did Apple Learn the History Lesson?

May 11, 2010

Apple - Android

Smartphones are the new personal computers. At least in terms of popularity and market growth, they are.

Now, remember what happened in the dawn of the personal computers (there is a really good documentary on the subject, Triumph of The Nerds, available in YouTube)? To make the long story short, Apple practically invented the personal computer, sold a lot of units, became the market leader, and then IBM and Microsoft came along. When Windows 95 was released, there was not much left of Apple’s market share.

The main difference between the Mac and the PC was that the PC was open – both in terms of hardware, and software (well, it was, according to the understanding of this term at the time). Both hardware and software of the Mac were proprietary and closed.

To make it worse, Apple doesn’t license their inventions to any other manufacturer. Microsoft, on the other hand, was willingly letting anyone else to take a piece of the action – a lot of software companies made millions (if not billions) of dollars out of Windows based software, available for a variety of vendors and devices.

About 30 years later, here comes the iPhone, changing the entire smartphone landscape. Selling about 50 million units in just 3 years and re-defining what a smartphone is and should look like. Again, both hardware and software are proprietary and closed. You can develop mobile applications for the iPhone, but there are quite a few things you should conform to – moderation of the apps for the App Store, to mention the big one.

And here comes Google and Android. The operating system is as open as an operating system can be – source code is freely available. A lot of vendors provide Android devices, and the mobile solution providers can easily develop and distribute (an important part of the deal) software for all Android devices. Doesn’t this ring a bell?

Fabrizio might just be right – this could turn out to be another bit of history repeating. Here is an indication of this happening today.

Author: Stefan Buynov

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