The Price Of Being Open

In his column for Engadget Michael Gartenberger points out a trend with Android phones that is very familiar to personal computers, that being phones pre-loaded with a bunch of unwanted software that is difficult to remove. Worse, the mobile phone companies are also removing built-in Android features with their own versions that are often inferior to Android. Gartenberger writes, “It’s sad that Android’s open and free ethos has been exploited by carriers and handset vendors as a way to maximize profits, gouge users and diminish the overall Android experience.”

Michael goes on to point out that Nexus One, even though it is no longer being directly sold to consumers, remains a flagship Android phone because it gets timely updates to Android and maintains all of the features that Google provides in Android. What we may be learning from what is happening is, who is benefiting from Android’s openness. Right now it appears that Android’s openness is only for the benefit of the mobile phone companies by providing them with a base operating system that they can they alter in nearly any way possible. Unfortunately, the mobile phone companies will exploit that capability even to the detriment of users.

There has been much talk ever since Apple announced the iPhone about what makes it so revolutionary. To me what has been revolutionary about the iPhone is that it was the first and still only smartphone that is designed and built entirely for users first. AT&T has very little, if any, say on most of the iPhone and it is very clearly not an AT&T device. I am personally attracted to Android because it is not controlled by Apple, but what we may find is that openness is really trading Apple with Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, or T-Mobile. The question to Google is, who is your customer with Android? Is it the mobile phone companies or end users?