I completed the Steve Jobs biography today which I found very interesting as a way to learn more about one of the most influential ICT product developers in the early to present day history of personal computers and the Internet.
One reference related to Apple and the Internet was how Apple has started shifting from the PC (Mac actually) as the digital hub to iCloud (Internet) as the hub.
There was also a bit at the end of the book about open vs closed ( or fragmented vs integrated as Steve Jobs would frame it). One reference for opponents of integrated was to the following book The Future of the Internet (read the book reviews which are interesting debate generators in themselves) another was Cory Doctorow who has written about the evils of closed systems on Boing Boing. Google’s Mark Pilgrim also was an “open” proponent lamenting for the good old days when systems could be hacked and programmed at a low level.
Personally I think there is a lot of misunderstanding on this topic because “open” sounds appealing at an emotional level but it is a lot more complicated with a lot of contradictions when some analysis is applied to what it really means and how it is implemented. When looking at the details and how it is actually delivered, Android for example, is not really “open” in many respects to end users. Carriers use Android to implement their own proprietary systems that never seem to be updated. This takes us back to the bad old days of handsets that are crippled by the service provider to suit their business model. Google has used “open” as a marketing technique and supposedly are big proponents of “open” but notice that in their primary business of search they are anything but “open”. In reality all the service providers have a mix of open and closed characteristics in their business models.
Anyway check out the above references for some arguments in favour of “open”.
BTW My son works at Mozilla so he provides me with lots of good examples of how open source can work well.
I am always on the lookout for the pros and cons of fragmented vs integrated as it is an important issue and product/service differentiator.
The important thing is that people have choices from competitive suppliers so they can choose which option in the spectrum of offerings they like most.