Android Looking More Like a Good Platform to Develop For (or Has Apple Crossed to the Darkside)

An article from today on Fast Company presents some really interesting information about smart phone takeup rates and market penetration, so I recommend you go to the article and look it over. It has me thinking about many things to do with the iPhone and iPad.

What it shows is that while smart phones are still a small 19% of the total phone market, Android-based smart phones are doing very well in the market. Specifically, since third quarter 2009 the % of smartphones that use the Android platform has been rising smartly at exactly the same time that the % of smart phones from RIM (Blackberry) and Apple have dropped. Of course that does not mean that their overall numbers have dropped, or even stopped growing, but rather that as a % of all smart phones they have dropped slightly.

What this means for developers of applications is that they should not simply focus on Blackberry and iPhone development, but need to get behind Android too.

It would be speculation to discuss why the rapid rise of Android, and that is exactly what we will do. While I love my iPhone 3Gs, what I really love is the ability to easily use my phone to hold my music collection, apps that let me do productive work on the phone and the nice way it plays with my Apple computers and their software. There are things I do not like about my iPhone, such as only being able to put Apps on it that Apple has censored and approved, unless I am willing to jail break it. This seems too much like Stalinist Russia for my tastes.

Up until now Android phones have not been something I have paid much attention to, rather I’ve been concentrating on the iPhone and iPad and getting my head around app development for those and website compatibility with the iPad browser. That changes as of today.

While like everyone else in Australia I am awaiting my iPad arrival, I am considering my future relationship with Apple. I’ve been an Apple user since the Apple II, indeed I made some money writing games for it, and I love the present generation of Apple laptops and desktops. Mac OS is a joy to use. But I am worried about the direction Apple is taking with the iPad. Whilst I can understand major restrictions on apps on a phone, since in the end it is primarily a phone and so I really don’t want any apps to screw things up when I need to make a call, the iPad is more like a laptop, only better. Apple seem to be shaping up to treat the iPad the same way as the iPhone, and I do not believe this is appropriate. I don’t believe it is appropriate because I can see the iPad in future iterations taking over from the laptop. My wife, for example, could do all she needs to do on a computer on an iPad-like device. No problems.

Why, for God’s sake, should:

  • I only be able to add applications to it from the Apple store?
  • Apple get to be the sole arbiter of what applications I can run?
  • I not be able to use my iPhone to provide Internet access to my iPad when away from a Wi-Fi hotspot?
  • I not be able to view Flash websites if I choose to? SUre if it is so bad given me a way to turn Flash off but leave the decision up to me if I am willing to suffer shorter battery life, etc.
  • I have to break the license agreement and jailbreak the iPad to do some or all of the above?

If the iPad were given away and Apple made its money solely off the services I would have no issue with the above constraints. But when I am paying an amount of money that would buy me a full fledged and open laptop, then it is different matter.

I am very concerned about the censorship issue inherent in Apple’s sole control over apps. While many Americans seem to have an issue with nipples (which is their right), this is not a mental illness that affects the whole world or even all Americans. If apps contains content you don’t like, don’t load it and use it. Surely it is that simple. And if Apple want to look after the young kid market put in an app rating system and let parents (or schools) set a level lock on content. The problem with censorship is that one person’s send them to hell pornography is another person’s healthy content. Sure, there is consensus among anyone with a brain that child pornography is bad news, but even there as the fairly recent controversy here in Australia over the photographer Bill Henson shows, there is not universal agreement about where the line is to be drawn. Censorship is a dangerous and steep slope, as Australia is finding over the government’s net censorship approach. And so Apple would do well to step away from this dangerous area and treat its customers as grown ups who are capable of making their own decisions.

It was an American, I believe, who said I may hate what you have to say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it. As long as Apple is the only way to legally put apps on an iPhone or iPad, surely they are violating the 1st Amendment right to free speech? One of the few things I envy the Americans for is their constitution that is also a great aspirational document.

Apologies for the long, wandering post. Perhaps my current reading of Stephen King’s Under the Dome has made me cautious of what too much power in a few hands can do.

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