There’s lately been much discussion about closed vs. open software systems, particularly as it relates to the smartphone, tablet , and video game system markets . The iPhone and iPad (and to an extent their desktop/laptop systems) are seen as “closed” since Apple tightly controls how applications are developed, approved, and sold on those platforms. Other systems such as Microsoft and Google are seen as more “open” since they do not have such controls on applications developed for their products. Which approach is better and will be the most successful?
Most techies (and therefore most discussions recently on the web) think everything should be open…that having the flexibility, choice, and freedom is the only way to go and is the BEST way for everyone. Most people, though, are only casual tech users or even tech ignorant and they don’t care- they just want their gadgets to work like an appliance without fussing over it.
Since the market for casual or non-tech users is much larger than the market for early adopters and tech savvy users, systems like the iPad will appeal to the casual market and be incredibly popular. Most people don’t want to mess with files, folders, anti-virus software, backups, driver configuration, and third party peripherals – they just want to instantly have their gadget turn on, have apps which launch quickly, and have a consistent and pretty interface to the internet and social networks.
The concept of “technology appliances” meet these goals. They can be expanded within constraints set by the manufacturer, but these gadgets are now web enabled, which makes them much more powerful even with these constraints. The information is open but is presented within a constrained, consistent, easy-to-use interface.
Open systems like Google’s Android OS are great for techies and can be infinitely configured, tweaked, and controlled but that does lead to more crashes, instability, battery usage, and a general mistrust of what apps are really doing. They can do anything and aren’t filtered by a single source, but instead rely on the community for this function- it may take some time for a rogue piece of software to be discovered and for others to get the word out about it.
While the technical elite will still buy these closed platforms for curiosity and review, it will be the huge masses of casual technology users who now have a web-enabled computer appliance which is easy to use that will make systems like the iPad hugely successful and popular over the coming years.