May 20 2010

Open Android vs. Closed iPhone

I just finished up spending the past two days at Google I/O. On one of the panels I participated in yesterday (VCs Who Code), the endless discussion about open (e.g. Google) vs. closed (e.g. Apple) came up with Dave McClure stating “Open is for losers.”  We had a short but spirited debate about a topic that could easily consume an entire panel before Dick Costolo (our moderator) quickly moved us on.  Of course, we got bogged down again later in “native apps vs. web apps” question (which I think is irrelevant in the long run, and said so.)

When I woke up this morning I was still thinking about the open vs. closed thing.  I’ve been using a Droid for a week (Google gave one to everyone that came to I/O) and I’ve been loving it.  I’ve been an iPhone user for several years and while there are a bunch of things about it I love, there are several that I hate, including the pathetic AT&T service, major limitations in some of the applications such as email, the restriction of Flash, lack of tethering, lack of statefulness, lack of multi-processing, and the unbearable shittiness of iTunes for Windows.  But, I never really considered an alternative until I started playing with Android 2.1 on a Droid on Verizon.

I’d basically decided to switch to the Droid.  The keynote on Day 2 was split between Android 2.2 and Google TV.  I was completely blown away by Android 2.2.  It doesn’t merely address each of the issues I have with my iPhone, it demolishes them. Google wasn’t bashful during the keynote about taking shots at Apple, which was fun to see.  And as I sat there, I kept thinking about how far Android has come taking an entirely open approach.

While Google “had me at Android 2.2”, they sealed the deal by giving every attendee a brand new HTC EVO 4G (running on Sprint).  There have been plenty of complaints about Android handsets; the Droid was good although I have had a Droid Incredible on order.  But, now that I have my HTC EVO, I’m completely hooked.  The physical device is magnificent, the Android implementation is awesome, and it is still only running Android 2.1 so it get even better when the over the air update is released and automatically upgrades.

I’m now in a position where I can dump my Verizon MiFi since can use my HTC phone as a hotspot.  One less $60 / month bill, one less thing to schlep around.  And I never have to use iTunes for Windows again.  Apple just lost me – again.

The most amazing thing to me when I reflect on this is how much of a complete non-event Microsoft in this discussion.  Before the iPhone, there was a different discussion and Windows Mobile (or whatever it was called) was regularly in the middle of it.  Not only is it no longer in the middle, it’s no longer in the discussion.  Google focused their sights directly on Apple and – with an open approach – is now in a position where it can legitimately threaten the iPhone’s long term position.

I love this stuff.  Plus I now have two cool new phones.