Why 'open' Android may lose the Apple iOS wars

Everyone's sleeping with Android and Apple should watch out, at least that's the threat on news Acer has also thrown in its lot with Android, hinting at truth in earlier predictions the firm intends releasing an Android 3.0-powered iPod contender of its own as soon as it can (assuming it can source the components).

In an aggressive prediction uttered during an interview with China's Economic Daily News and reported by Digitimes, Acer chairman, JT Wang, said he expects to see the iPad market fall. Though he does think the tablet market will increase to 50 million units per year and Apple to hold a third of that market.

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Acer's chairman did confirm claims Apple's product has incinerated the tablet market, saying the iPad has secured near 100 per cent of that market right now.

Once competing firms manage to build devices as sleek as an iPad running operating systems as effective as Apple's and somehow reach audiences for these devices, things might improve, the Acer boss hopes.

Once the tablet PC market "stabilizes" in that way he expects iPad sales will shrink to "only" 20-30 percent of the market, he said.

Why?

The open lie

Apple's decision to run the device on the iOS platform continuously opens the company up to accusations it is offering a closed platform.

Competitors argue that the success of Microsoft and its more open partnership model shows that a closed platform will eventually lose to a more open one.

But is this really true?

The long-running anti-trust prosecution of Microsoft showed multiple instances in which that company illegally used its market power to bolster its position and alter natural evolution of the PC market.

To my mind this suggests that if the market had been left to develop naturally without being skewed by Microsoft's proven illegal tactics, then perhaps the historical 'open' v 'closed' argument would not seem quite so compelling.

That some 90 percent of the computers used in the world today are running some breed of Windows OS is not testament to the success of the OS, nor of its partnership model.

Instead it is testament to the true effect of skewing the natural evolution of the PC market, which would be better served through the existence of multiple operating systems, a heterogenous, rather than homogenous beast. That homogenity is almost completely responsible for the high degree of Internet security problems faced by users today.

Security researchers frequently warn that if Mac marketshare grows, then security risks on that platform will also grow. The reverse is also surely true: if Windows share shrinks then security problems will decline.

Polygamy, monogamy and private lives

Android has seen some success in its polygamous model. The OS that's anyone's for nothing is now inside many cellphone models from multiple networks and manufacturers.

Android is among Apple's biggest threats in the smartphone world, along with Nokia, RIM, Microsoft and HP/Palm webOS.

With so many contenders there really is no clear winner at the moment.

Public awareness of the importance with which commercial companies regard their private digital data is growing.

Ordinary consumers are beginning to understand just how much information about them is being collected by these unaccountable corporations, with or without satisfactory permission or adequate explanation. They don't like it.

For many of us the notion of a world in which the ads you see on television, listen to on radio, find online, or experience when playing games are all finely targetted at the user based on their own digital footprints isn't a world of happy utility, but a slice of hell.

Privacy is important. And privacy is Google's Achilles' Heel. It doesn't understand it, doesn't respect it, and thinks everyone should change their identity now and then in order to avoid the limiting effects of a world without privacy.

But why should we?

Consumers haven't yet begun abandoning use of Google products, but as they begin to understand the data-mining nature of those Android handsets, some may find they'd prefer to use the smartphone Google seems to be basing its Android OS ideas on.

And that's an iPhone.

Wish fulfillment

There's no guarantee Android will prevail. There's lots of Google partners and potential partners raising their hands into the air and praying for rain, but collectively shared incantations don't always come true.

Acer's chairman also says that Android simply needs a little more time before it "turns strong". This reflects musings from fellow blogger, Preston Gralla, who thinks Android 3.0 tablets may surpass the iPad.

He notes that Motorola, Verizon, and Google are "working on a deal to create an Android tablet with a 10.1-inch screen, and based on the Tegra 2 platform from Nvidia."

He thinks variety and niche marketing will unseat Apple's lead in the tablet market.

Perhaps it will.

But while others look to Google for innovation in Android 3.0, Apple is already quietly dreaming up what's to come in iOS 5.0. And while Google has proven expertise in data and search technologies, Apple has an edge in, you know, operating system design. And what is to stop Apple continuing to diversify its product range?

iPhone nano, anyone? An iOS Mac? An Apple TV with iOS and a pico video projector? The sky really is the limit. 

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