Is the closed-source platform the core of the Apple’s problems?

This week in DIGC202 we looked at the most epic technological war ever: Apple versus Google.  The battle is being fought between two companies with completely different ideologies.

Apple can be seen as a ‘walled garden’ – users of Apple products are very restricted in terms of what they can do with software, and there is no tolerance for the use of external applications.  The company is often criticised for its ‘closed-model’ business approach and the tight control it keeps on its devices (Helft 2010).  An article by Walton (2012) remarks that Mozilla (the company that built Firefox) believes that Apple is restricting openness and creativeness in this way, ‘turning everybody into consumers, instead of creators’.

On the opposing side, Google is seen as the symbol of innovation. With this ideology in mind, the Android operating system developed by Google is open-source. Roth (2008) defined Android as a mobile platform that is free, open and that ‘any coder could write for and any handset maker could install’.  This means that Android users are not restricted in their customisation or modification of the software.

The issues discussed in the lecture reminded me of a subject I completed in my second year of university which was about business innovation, technology and policy. I think the concept of innovation is a very important point in this debate.  Apple is a company which is constantly introducing innovative new products. However, unlike Google, they are not capitalising on the creativity of their customers. As Professor David Yoffie (cited by Helft 2010) explains, “There is much more rapid innovation taking place in an open environment”, and Apple is failing to utilise the creative minds of users and third-party developers.

Apple wants to maintain control over what their customers do and how they use their devices, whereas Google encourages their customers to take their work and use their own creativity and innovative ideas to make improvements, to the benefit of all other Android users.  Mies (2010) notes various benefits of Android as an open-source platform, including:

  • modify software to meet your needs
  • is not restricted to a single device
  • competition among the companies that make Android products is driving innovation
  • choose from thousands of third-party applications, however  not restricted to the official app store

I think the quote by Roth (2008) sums up the main difference between Apple and Android:

“Apple’s device was an end in itself — a self-contained, jewel-like masterpiece locked in a sleek protective shell. Android was a means, a seed intended to grow an entire new wireless family tree.”

The open environment encouraged by Google is likely to lead to perpetual innovation for years to come, growing and expanding the business and its product offerings.

But where do I stand? From a business perspective, I would choose Google without a doubt. However, I must admit that I am quite comfortable using my controlled and restricted iPhone. Being bound by the Apple iTunes store does not worry me in the slightest!

What do you think? Are you on Team Apple or Team Google?

Thanks for reading!



Helft, M 2010, ‘Will Apple’s culture hurt the iPhone? ; Open approach of competitors like Android spurs quicker innovation’, TODAY (Singapore), 19 October, accessed 21/10/ 2012 via Factiva Database

Mies, G 2010, ‘Welcome to Android’, PCWorld, May 6, accessed 20/10/2012 via <>

Roth, D 2008, ‘Google’s Open Source Android OS Will Free the Wireless Web’, Wired Magazine, June 23, accessed 20/10/2012 via <>

Walton, Z 2012, ‘Mozilla Slams Apple’s “Walled-Garden” Philosophy: Says that Apple’s app ecosystem is tantamount to censorship’, WebProNews, May 11, accessed 20/10/2012 via <>

Image sourced from here.

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