Do Clothes (or Apps) Make the Man?
I was reading a recent post by Robert Scoble where he took Ray Ozzie to task over a remark Ray made at this year’s Microsoft PDC. The quote that got Robert (and many others) all aflutter revolved around how a mobile device isn’t about the applications available but more about the platform itself (just to update, that statement was generalized and apparently there is a more to it than meets the eye – see the original story on Venture Beat: Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie: Apps don’t make your phone special and read some of the comments left on Robert’s blog).
Sure, one could certainly argue the place of applications in the success/failure/adoption of a mobile device, but when you use applications available as the sole differentiating factor between devices, that’s where the argument breaks down.
Let’s look at Scoble’s article as a reference point and go from there. In it he mentions that the primary reason he feels the iPhone is better than the Droid is because the iPhone has better messaging apps – that is, better Twitter clients, Facebook integration, etc. Conversely, Michael Arrington from TechCrunch backs the Droid because it offers Google Voice – something the iPhone currenly does not offer. The interesting thing is that they’re both right: both devices are great for the very reasons they both state. However, that greatness is finite.
Thanks to the very nature of application development, someone will always look to build something better than what’s currently available. That means that an Android developer will create a new Twitter client that rivals, and possibly surpasses, Scoble’s beloved Tweetie. I’d also be willing to guess that Google Voice, or some application that incorporates Google Voice, will eventually find its place on an iPhone. These developments (no pun intended) invalidate the arguments made by both men (besides, its suspect to argue that Apple has better applications for the very simple reason that Apple devices were out first, and well ahead of Android-based devices – that head start guaranteed that the iPhone would have more, and better, applications available).
So once we get past applications as the defining factor, what is left? I’d say user interface and useability, hardware durability, form factor, and with new mobile chipsets coming coming out, we close to being back to the RAM/CPU wars of old – only this time on our handsets versus our desktops.
Finally, there’s always how developer-friendly mobile OS companies and device manufacturers are. Recently some gaps in Apple’s armor have arisen on that front, and it could be, especially if Google presses the advantage, that Android may become the platform of choice for mobile application developers tired of Apple’s lack of flexibility. And what of Microsoft? Where do they fall with regards to these developments? And RIM? And Palm?
Regardless, the nice thing is that a high level of competition between the the two camps in terms of development, not to mention the maturation of ways to port applications across platforms, means that we, the user, are the real winners. It’s an exciting time!
But because I love a healthy debate, let’s open it up to comments. So what camp do you reside in: iPhone vs. Droid? Ok,…go.