Apple, Google and the open alternative

Say what you will about Google, its open source software use, its perspective on openness or its lack of openness in some cases (and as evidenced by the links, I have), but the company deserves some credit for being — like it or not — the ‘open alternative.’ In addition to its contributions of code, developers and support to open source, Google also gets credit as the biggest, toughest ‘open’ badge wearer. Regardless of how open it is or is not, at least we have a formidable software and technology company carrying the mantle of the open alternative.

Take Android as an example. Although we continue to hear developer and vendor concerns about its openness, including recent reports it is not continuing in mainline Linux kernel development, Android continues to present the biggest challenge to Apple’s iPhone, both in terms of actual market penetration and buzz. While Android has its limitations in terms of openness, it continues to put pressure on Apple to be more open itself, particularly with its development process and application store. Much in the same way enterprise open source software vendors have put pressure on proprietary competitors to lower prices, improve support and quality, I believe Android is similarly keeping pressure on Apple to respond to concerns about its closed, controlled approach.

Now the discussion has turned to Apple’s recently announced iPad tablet device. As I indicated, I expected some type of open source response, most likely from an existing technology or effort. Where is the open alternative coming from? Again, it appears it is Google, this time with Chrome. Had it been proposed, announced or rumored before Apple’s iPad, a tablet from Google might not seem very open at all in terms of developer and partner access to source code and other aspects. However, when it sits alongside Apple’s announcement and strategy, it again becomes the open alternative.

Whatever Apple comes up with, it seems Google or somebody else or a band of competitors such as the Open Handset Alliance are ready and willing to come up with something in response. In order to make it cost-effective, fast, brandable and developer-friendly, the response also involves open source software.

This is a theme we highlighted in our CAOS special report, Mobility Matters. Part of the reason we saw real traction for mobile Linux, particularly Android, after previous false starts for mobile Linux and open source software was the array of hardware and handset makers, third-party software vendors, wireless carriers, advertising outfits and others that were all similarly focused on their iPhone response: the open alternative.

True, the concerns and issues around Android’s openness, or lack thereof, have significant implications. This is further illustration of how Google may be the open alternative juxtaposed against Apple, but by adding its own strings and closures, Google is also leaving the door open for another, more open alternative. Perhaps Palm and its WebOS are an example, but again, it seems no matter what a company or consortium does, they still leave opportunity for a relatively more open alternative.

It begs the question of how open is open enough? The answer inevitably varies for developers, consumers, vendors and enterprises, but it appears open alternatives will continue to serve as competition and counterbalance to closed technology and strategy and this is a good thing.

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13 comments ↓

#1 Links 4/2/2010: Scientific Linux Reviewed, Google Tablets | Boycott Novell on 02.04.10 at 11:10 pm

[…] Apple, Google and the open alternative True, the concerns and issues around Android’s openness, or lack thereof, have significant implications. This is further illustration of how Google may be the open alternative juxtaposed against Apple, but by adding its own strings and closures, Google is also leaving the door open for another, more open alternative. Perhaps Palm and its WebOS are an example, but again, it seems no matter what a company or consortium does, they still leave opportunity for a relatively more open alternative. […]

#2 Android ‘below expectations’ in Europe | AboutAndroid.info on 02.07.10 at 2:23 pm

[…] 451 CAOS Theory » Apple, Google and the open alternative […]

#3 Intel Software Network Blogs » Apple iPad and Innovation in Open Source on 02.08.10 at 1:12 pm

[…] to serve as competition and counterbalance to closed technology and strategy,” according to Jay Lyman, an open source analyst at The 451 Group. In an interview with LinuxInsider, he goes on to say this. “We typically see faster development in […]

#4 451 CAOS Theory » Open source growing footprint in embedded market on 03.03.10 at 6:11 pm

[…] to formidable competition from Apple, Microsoft and others, MeeGo will have to compete with a more open rival in Google’s […]

#5 451 CAOS Theory » Open one way or another on 03.12.10 at 2:31 pm

[…] concerns about Apple’s control issues, and we’ve also highlighted how the company is creating opportunity for more open alternatives to capture developers, mindshare and yes, believe it or not, consumers. […]

#6 451 CAOS Theory » Android is for real on 05.14.10 at 9:40 am

[…] Apple for showing the way, but the company continues to leave and arguably generate opportunity for more open alternatives such as Android. Apple is correct that the recent sales figures are only a snapshot of time and […]

#7 451 CAOS Theory » Apple gets its Android on on 07.07.10 at 6:03 pm

[…] is finding success with its devices and market growth, but it is also interesting to see a more open alternative giving it real competition, not only in smartphones, but in many more facets of technology and our […]

#8 451 CAOS Theory » Tablet fight shaping up as smartphone repeat on 01.28.11 at 12:24 pm

[…] Lyman, January 28, 2011 @ 12:23 pm ET Here we go again. Apple is not only leaving opportunity for more open alternatives, it is dismissing the competition, which it apparently thinks either does not or should not […]

#9 451 CAOS Theory » Is Android FUD a forebearer of Linux-like success? on 03.30.11 at 7:41 pm

[…] threat, but which may find an improvement or refinement. This could be as simple as serving as the more open […]

#10 451 CAOS Theory » The open card in the mobile game on 07.26.11 at 12:42 pm

[…] @ 12:41 pm ET I wrote last year about the way Google’s Android mobile operating system was serving as a more open alternative to Apple’s iOS, but not so open that it didn’t leave […]

#11 451 CAOS Theory » WebOS and the open alternative live another day on 12.13.11 at 3:32 pm

[…] former is based on Linux. I still think the greatest opportunity for WebOS may be in serving as an open alternative in the market, particularly after Android has proven to handset makers, wireless carriers, OEMs and […]

#12 WebOS and the open alternative live another day | Tastala WP0 on 03.19.12 at 1:52 pm

[…] former is based on Linux. I still think the greatest opportunity for WebOS may be in serving as an open alternative in the market, particularly after Android has proven to handset makers, wireless carriers, OEMs and […]

#13 The FOSS Effect on the Mobile OS Landscape in 2013 | GoTech24h.com - Tech News Today on 01.08.13 at 11:09 am

[…] as Android put vigour on Apple to be some-more open to developers and device makers, Tizen will be an choice to Android for a market. Tizen is also a […]