What's Better: Open or Closed? Android or iPhone?

There's a pretty good article over at GigaOM that touches on the Open vs Closed argument of technology. Specifically, it pits Android and iPhone against each other because of the obvious contrasting strategies and philosophies behind their parent companies, Google and Apple.

We can't deny that the iPhone is wildly successful in spite of (or because of?) their closed, proprietary nature. It's essentially the dilemma that iPhone users have been trying to find the balance to--the iPhone's closed nature creates a clean, seamless and synergetic user experience but it often comes at the expense of the freedom of choice. You have to trust Apple enough to play nice and take a leap of faith with the direction of the iPhone.

But does that leave Google free and clear? According to GigaOM: hardly. The point has been driven before but Android isn't married to a specific hardware form factor, any philosophical software, or well, anything, for that matter. Google has made it loud and clear that Android is open source and that it can be shaped however the user base intends to shape it. But does that openness come at the expense of the user experience? Google can't remain fully "open" for fear of fracturing that holy grail of user experience. In a sense, GigaOM is advising Google to remain open with limits; implementing a sort of theoretically open playground that would still necessitate rules and fair play.

And though we believe Android is unique and its ceiling is higher than its competitors because of that "openness", we tend to agree with GigaOM: that Google needs to set "parameters" with Android because mobile platforms are all about predictability and user friendliness and less about openness. In a sense, being open is good, being less than fully "open" is better.

The general public wants a phone to act and react a certain way, and without a certain amount of consistency in the platform--it can create a jagged experience that turns off many. Sure, a lot of people complain about the iPhone's stringent app approval process but there's certainly a lot more who are happy with just how easy and simple everything else works. It's going to be dangerous territory for Android to tread because the tech savvy will be undoubtedly saddened if Google closes its openness but the more general public may see it as a heck of a lot more friendly.

GigaOM sums it up best:

The reality is that openness is just an attribute -– it's not an outcome, and customers buy outcomes. They want the entire solution and they want it to work predictability. Only a tiny minority actually cares about how or why it works. It's little wonder, then, that the two device families that have won the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of consumers, developers and service providers alike (i.e., BlackBerry and iPhone) are the most deeply integrated from a hardware, software and service layer perspective.

We know it's a lot to digest but we want to know what do you guys think. Open or closed? Android or iPhone? Does it even matter?

Casey Chan