"It's not about pretty icons, Apple fanboys, and its not about business use, Windows Mobile Nerds: its about giving people the true tools to build whatever they want without lame App Store limitations and OS handcuffs. It's about giving phone makers shackled to Symbian and Microsoft's phone OS the chance to build with something different and better and free. And who's going to complain about that?"
At least that's what John Maloney at Gizmodo thinks.
I'm no Apple fanboy; I develop for the iPhone, but I'll also develop Android applications. But actually pretty icons do matter, and so does business use. That's why most people use Windows or Mac OS X as their desktop operating systems, and not Linux. Linux has only begun to see desktop use after it included the pretty icons.
The first generation iPhone sold pretty well, but it was only after the debut of tools like push email - intended for business use - that sales of the iPhone 3G soared.
But the most important concern for users is consistency - of user interface, of operation - consistency in how the device works for them. Consistency is far more important than the ability to change everything.
For example, there are several alternatives to Internet Explorer on Windows, but the majority of users will never change the default. That's because consistency - in this case the same browser from one Windows machine to another - is easy for users to deal with.
In Japan, the i-mode wireless internet service became extremely popular, not because was that much better, but because it was consistent across multiple devices, even to the extent of having a special i-mode button on the phone to access the service.
Apple also has a benefit that Google's Android doesn't - complete control of the hardware. Several Android features are noted as "hardware dependant". And with complete control of the hardware, Apple can push out complete upgrades to every user simultaneously, whenever they want or need to. Android will out of necessity have a more limited upgrade cycle to allow the phone manufacturers to implement and test new code; manufacturers who also have other non-Android phones to deal with as well.
On the negative side though, Apple certainly suffers from control issues, but Google is not innocent either when it comes to that. Apple could go a long way toward more openness and relations with developers, and they should. Google - a company of developers - clearly wins that round.
Android has some things that the iPhone doesn't too, the most obvious being the ability to run applications in parallel. It can be a pain on the iPhone when switching apps to have to start again when you switch back to the first one, but this hasn't yet caused me too much consternation. And a geek like me might replace something like the phone application, but I doubt that will benefit the majority of users.
Similar comments were made when Java was introduced; write-once-run-anywhere software that would allow the development of completely open software. But Java has yet to change the world. Android will certainly impress the technophiles, but when it comes to both the business and consumer audiences, I think iPhone still takes the prize.
Larry Borsato has been a software developer, marketer, consultant, public speaker, and entrepreneur, among other things. For more of his unpredictable, yet often entertaining thoughts you can read his blog at larryborsato.com.