Celebrity Death Match: Apple iPhone OS vs. Android

13 04 2010

I am watching this particular battle with great interest, and I honestly have no idea who is going to win.  Here are the contestants:

  • Apple iPhone/iPad.  Hugely popular, hugely innovative and hugely restrictive to developers.  This platform is totally controlled by Apple.  The business question is: Will this lack of openness result in a customer/developer backlash at some point?
  • Google Android.  New, growing fast, and open.  Anybody can do anything with this open source platform.  The business question here is; will all this freedom result in a loss of platform portability as everybody tries to differentiate their offerings on the Android platform?  Application portability will matter when it comes to the economics of developing for the Android platform for software application developers.
  • Google Chrome.  Lurking outside the ring.  Nobody can tell if this is a contestant or not.
  • Palm OS.  Sorry.  That dog won’t hunt.  Details Here.

This is a fascinating battle between two very different business models for a very important part of the mobile market. Some recent developments:

  • Free Software Foundation protests closed nature of iPad platform.   Details Here.
  • Apple announces version 4 of the iPhone OS, with some very restrictive terms for developers.   Details Here.
  • Google announces that it is working on a tablet computer with an Android OS (not Chrome).  Details here.
  • Google announced a plan to limit Android platform fragmentation by separating the platform and Android applications.  (My thanks to Stephanie for sending me this one!)  Details here.

The Google tablet computer item is particularly interesting.  It’s no surprise that Google is rushing a tablet computer to market given the huge popularity of the Apple iPad.  The surprise is that they will use the Android OS, not Chrome.  That suggests that they are pulling out all the stops to get to market quickly.  We will know for sure when we see the actual product.

In the longer view, this is going to come down to a war of business models.  Will a more open platform mean a greater and more innovative ecosystem around Android (and Chrome) or will Apple win by being innovative, first to market, and hugely popular?

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