Android vs the carriers

I’m sick and tired of hearing about how Android is open and how Apple’s iOS is closed.  The open mantra geeks don’t seem to realise that Android adoption is only taking off because money is being made — in my not so humble opinion.  It’s about business — not philosophy.  Not some fracking community-altruistic-save-the-world-cumbaya thing.  Google didn’t release Android to make sure you had a cool open source OS for your hardware.   They did it to make money.  Period.

Most of the intelligent critiques of Android are about the way it is being offered/marketed by the carriers to customers.  Some people think all Android phones are Droid even when you tell them otherwise.  The carriers, not Google, are using Android as a sword against each with the consumer as collateral damage.  Verizon announced they are packing their phones with their own app store.

With VCAST Apps, Verizon is stealing a page from Apple, offering a curated app menu showcasing what it deems the best apps. All apps available on VCAST will be screened by the company, in a similar way to how Apple vets software for its App Store.

While some will applaud this as a good thing I can’t help but see the irony and Verizon’s hypocrisy in doing this.  Verizon’s ads once criticised Apple for having a locked down store but watch them now.

By vetting apps, Verizon also appears to be trying to distinguish itself from the Android Market, which does not scrutinize apps before they appear in the storefront.

Yes, you can root/jail-break your device but rooting/jail-breaking is a solution to the same issue Apple was criticised for — locking down the device.  So as much as Apple locking down the app store is seen as a negative — but competitive choice by Verizon— I think its fair to report that the same thing is happening in the Android arena.  It’s not all smiles and frozen yogurt.

The philosophy of being open source assumes that everyone has the knowledge and power and desire to use the openness.  But if the majority of consumers just want utility then openness is irrelevant.

I don’t care about open versus closed — and I don’t think most consumers do either — because I don’t write code or care about what’s under the hood.  I just want a large selection of applications on a stable platform and integration with the rest of my computing life — at home and at work.  For me that means an iPhone. For others Android is the best choice.  For most others, Nokia (the largest user base) or RIM.

There is a reason these OS have significant market share and it has very little to do with open source.  It has to do with a combination of hardware, software and marketing.  Android’s market share is growing because of the blitzkreig of adversing and two for one pricing from the carriers.  In the end the best marketed mouse trap sells.

With all the cheap Android based phones being used eventually people will want to eventually use them for work related activities.  In some enterprises Android use in increasing while in others — heavily regulated high risk industries like banking/finance, pharma, etc — not at all.

My employer only supports RIM, Windows Mobile and iOS (iPhone/iPad) for integration with their calendar, email, VPN and Citrix systems.  Why?  Because enterprise level policy management software exists within Microsoft’s enterprise software stack — Active Directory, Exchange and ActiveSync — to enforce security and IT policy compliance.  With Windows and Apple iOS devices these management tools are free.

Microsoft already has a fait accompli when it comes to enterprise software.  From the desktop to the database, to storage, web server, directory — the entire stack is tightly integrated and works well to meet business needs. Third party software and network appliance manufacturers build in support for Microsoft’s stack making the it that much more valuable to the enterprise.  That’s why RIM and iPhones have built in support for ActiveSync and Active Directory.

Keep in mind that it cost nothing for my employer to enable the security policy (secure remote wipe, forced screen lock and password policy) management of iOS devices.  It’s built into the device.  Apple even provides a free iPhone configuration utility.

With Android are we starting to see attempts at solutions for meeting enterprise information security needs. But that cost money and with IT budgets sliced and diced and razor thin — free tools win.

Writing as someone who works for a large enterprise, I think for Android to be taken seriously by the enterprise — and my employer — will require cheaply available software tools that ensure security and compliance to government regulations.  Google should start talking to it’s enterprise customers — Apple’s been out to talk to us three times — and work with carriers to address some of these short comings.  In it’s infancy, the iOS platform was criticised for it’s lack of enterprise readiness compared to RIM.  Now it’s Android’s turn.

More carriers will start offering their own locked down versions of Android.  This will only validate Apple’s business model.  The über geeks can still go ahead and root their device for a “pure” experience — they just won’t be allowed to use the enterprise network or systems.

This article was originally posted at by Khürt Williams and is his personal opinion. Copyright 2010 Khürt Williams, All Rights Reserved.

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