Yesterday’s Guardian (24 September 2008) contains an article on the release of the Google G1 phone. An accompanying review, entitled “Innovation For Tech Heads” describes how the technology is “as good if not in some cases better” than the iPhone, and mentions G1’s strengths in its camera and download speed. Most importantly, though, the article describes how “The real difference between the two devices … is likely to come from the openness of Google’s operating system, Android, which allows tech-heads to design ‘widgets’ for the phone.” The article does concede that the phone lacks the “wow factor of the Apple device“.
Now I’m sure that most readers of this blog will understand the benefits provided by openness and the dangers of being locked into a proprietary system – whether this is Facebook, Microsoft or Apple’s iPhone. Some readers with a pragmatic view of the world may have bought an iPhone as at the time there wasn’t an equivalent open system. But now that the G1 device is available, which provides, unlike the iPhone, an open environment for accessing widgets, that argument is no longer valid. So we’ll soon be seeing those iPhone users who have strong beliefs in open systems and have criticised the closed nature of various Web 2.0 services seeking to move their contract, won’t we? And this should include many of the people I follow on Twitter who became very excited when they purchsed their iPhone.
Is this a likely scenario? Isn’t it the case that IT professionals and policies makers can be impressed by the ‘wow’ factor – this isn’t restricted young people who we sometimes accuse of being impressed by the latest ‘fad’. And don’t we all have to make judgements about openness, cost, functionality and, indeed, personal preferences. So if the iPhone, G1 or whatever other new device comes along and provides a valuable personal learning environment, personal research environment, personal work environment and personal social environment for the owner of the device, then shouldn’t we accept that?
And if we accept that argument for the device that we have in our hand, then doesn’t it also apply to the equivalent service which we have accept via our fingertips- whether this is our preferred social networking environment or aggregation tool? Or to put it another way, when should openness trump personal preferences?
(Disclaimer I’m the owner of a Nokia N95 with a short battery life!)