Yesterday, Ajit Jaokar over at Open Gardens published a thought piece he called "The Paradox of Open: What we can learn on Open from Apple and Microsoft". He argues that despite Apple and Microsoft having closed mobile operating systems they are successful. The conclusion he reached was the following:
"I believe that: A 'closed platform' works provided you have an 'Open ecosystem' BUT an Open platform (open source and / or open standards) without an ecosystem (open or closed) does not work."
An interesting statement I agree with and would like to extend a bit to show further influences:
A couple of days ago I met with a friend who's had an iPod touch for some time now and is a glowing part-time developer. When I asked him why he picked up programming for the iPhone / iPod touch and what he thought about the development environment, he said that:
- he picked it up because Apple is doing great things
- because he likes the UI and how easy it makes things for users.
- the development environment for the iPhone is not so nice with the license you have to get and all the restrictions that are put in place with developer codes, distribution, etc.
- he only works on it because the product on which the application will run is so great. Otherwise he would not bother.
So I think in the end it doesn't really matter if an OS is open or closed. If it is not liked by users for whatever reason and is not easy to use and there is a better alternative available, then nothing will come of it.
Speaking of ecosystems: I think for a free and open source OS it is much simpler to get an ecosystem in place because the community can help vs. a closed source OS where the burden of fostering an ecosystem lies in the hands of the company that owns it.
A good example is Nokia's Memo platform for their tablet devices. It's for the most part free and open source and yet, only few users have bought one. In my opinion the handling and UI is just nowhere near the iPhone or similar touch devices yet.
In other words: Part of the ecosystem, a part that one can't touch, is the success of the product, its ease of use and in turn how many people use it. So Open alone is not warranting success on its own. In that respect I am not sure if there is a paradox with Open? As always, comments are welcome.