December 20, 2014

iPhone and Android: Apples and Orchards

As you may have heard, the iPhone NDA is fading away. The exact scope of the new NDA is still a bit murky — it is unclear if you can talk about the iPhone SDK, or only your own iPhone apps. Still, though, it is clearly a step in the right direction, one for which Apple should be applauded. And the details should be clearer in a week or so, when the new NDA text is made available (and, hopefully, talked about…legally).

Some in the Android community will claim this is a “win” for Android, insofar as Android “caused” the change. It probably did play a role. Android has just enough of an “it” factor that makes it a likely place for disaffected iPhone developers to jump to. Up until the Android SDK was updated and a champagne bottle cracked across the bow of the T-Mobile G1, Android was a theoretical place of refuge. Now, it’s real enough that Apple was probably hearing stories of various individuals and firms jumping ship.

Still, I suspect that Apple was swayed less by a looming Android and more by the practical impacts of their NDA. They were being bombarded with questions (“Can I publish a book on iPhone?” “Can we teach a class about iPhone?” “Are black mock turtlenecks covered under the NDA?”), and the FUD the NDA put on the iPhone community clearly stifled their ecosystem. The fact that they’re doing as well as they were, despite the albatross they hung around their own neck, is a testament to the Apple brand.

However, the changed NDA doesn’t really change anything about the iPhone-Android relationship. Despite media reports to the contrary, this isn’t an iPhone-Android fight. Comparing iPhone to Android is comparing apples and orchards — at present, iPhone is a solitary device available on a restricted set of carriers, while Android will be used on all sorts of devices (phones and otherwise) and available on any carrier that wants it. If you want to compare iPhone to the T-Mobile G1, that’s a fair comparison, device to device, even if in some markets (e.g., US) they’re only sort-of competing due to disparate supported carriers.

In my humble opinion, Android is less about open source or open communities or open markets or open systems, than it is about open opportunity. We need Android to succeed to ensure that open source, open markets, et. al. are a viable, not-too-crazy choice for people in the marketplace. This does not mean that “iPhone must die” or anything of the sort, which is why I get nervous when people use violent imagery to depict the iPhone-Android relationship. If we really believe in what Android brings to the table, while we say we want Android to succeed, I hope it is more that we want the principles of openness embodied in Android to succeed. Android will bring those principles to the market, and if other platforms adopt those principles, we all win, above and beyond Android’s own success.

So, in contrast to Marc Antony, I come not to bury iPhone, but to praise it. We should celebrate this incremental step towards openness that Apple has made, and hope that over time, it makes many more steps in that direction. In the meantime, though, since we can’t count on them taking those steps, we have some ‘droids to build.



  • chris

    Well said Mark. Coexistence will help foster great things.

  • TareX

    Jail broken iPhones just got multitasking today. So now, with that, copy/paste, and video conferencing, I’d say -for the end user- the iPhone is devoid of any shortcomings that would drive consumers to Android phones.

    Not to mention news of Safari flash support and the lifting of developer’s NDA.

  • Guilherme

    The point here is not to have Jail broken phones…. the point is not having a Jail in the first place :)

  • Randy Fesse

    Don’t forget the humble iPod Touch. iPod Touch + phone with 3G and WiFi routing capabilities make for a compelling set up. You can do this now with a Nokia Series 60 phone, JoikuSpot and an iPod Touch. I’m hoping someone comes up with software for Android to allow the phone to be turned into a WiFi router – then you can get an Android phone and an iPod Touch and have the best of both worlds for less than the price of an iPhone.

  • TareX

    Isn’t Android about “potential”? Well there you go, there is the iPhone’s potential: True multitasking, video recording, and copy/paste all there.

    Do you think Google will compensate you for malware you installed? Nope. This is YOUR responsibility. Same thing for iPhone, if you jailbreak it, it’s void. So there are NO DIFFERENCES whatsoever.

  • GreenLeaf

    iPhone unlocked= $800

    G1 unlocked= not more than $400

    If there are no differences in potentialities (and there are), i would still prefer G1 (And i would rather have malware on my phone than being ripped off $1000 for a stupid app)

    Seriously, this malware/virus problem on android is highly overrated. There are thousands of viruses for PC & virtually nil for Macs. Still PC leads desktop market by a long shot. It is the business model behind the platform that decides its success. iPhone will always be made only by APPL . It has no competition. That’s not good for the consumers.

    What does android bring to the table? CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE CHOICE!

  • jake

    @TareX
    Except as noted, it still requires a jailbreak, thus pointing again to the existence of a jail. The point is getting those things on the phone without having to jailbreak. That is what the “potential” in Android is about. Apple can’t exactly sell jailbreak as a feature.

  • http://syabac.student.ipb.ac.id syabac

    waw,
    may be i choose the Android.. :)

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