An Open Question: Is Open Source Better?
The success of Google's Android software doesn't prove that open is better
According to conventional wisdom, Apple blew its first chance to dominate thecomputer industry. It missed out on becoming the 800-pound PC gorilla because its systems were too closed. Not just in the literal sense—the original Macintosh computers were sealed tight, so tinkererscouldn’t fool around with the guts—but in the licensing sense. That is, only Apple could make computers running the Mac operating system. Microsoft, on the other hand, licensed Windows to any oldcomputer company—and today Windows runs 90 percent of the world’s PCs.
But then, a few years later, a second experiment ran, this time involving music players. Here again, both Apple and Microsoft usedprecisely the same playbooks they had with computers. In this corner: Steve Jobs, insisting on being the sole creator of both the iPod and its software. In that corner: Microsoft, offering itsmusic-player software platform, called PlaysForSure, to any company that paid the licensing fee.
This time the results were reversed. The proprietary model triumphed—big time. The iPod gobbled up 85 percentof the music-player market. And Microsoft? It took PlaysForSure out behind the barn and shot it.
(Microsoft then ran a third experiment. It introduced a completely new music-player system, calledZune, modeled, incredibly, on Apple’s closed-architecture model. It failed, too.)
So we have several controlled studies with contradictory results. Which is the right approach? To license? Or tocontrol?
Now we are engaged in a great market war, testing which model assures market dominance. It is the biggest test yet: the app-phone battle. This time the war is between Apple (iPhone, proprietary)and Google (Android, open).
Once again, Apple’s approach is to let only Apple make the hardware and software. Nobody else makes iPhones. Google, on the other hand, is taking the Microsoft “anyone...
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