There is a lot of debate over what mobile operating system is the best. And what does that mean really….to be the best? What it means to me is pretty simple – can it do what I want it to do, when I want it to do it. For my money, that’s Android all the way. Other folks will say iOS does anything and everything they need it to do. And respectfully, I disagree. The reason is the very dividing line of the debate itself – whether or not open source software is superior to its closed source counterparts. I vote yes. Here’s why.
The concept of open source software is simple in theory, and slightly more complicated in practice. You’ll hear open source detractors throw the dangers of fragmentation into the mix. And while fragmentation is a real concern, these naysayers miss the whole point behind open source – the freedom for developers to take the code and make changes, maybe even improvements over the original code. This is the core of the power and flexibility of open source software. The strength of this fact far out weighs any potential downside of fragmentation (or other) concerns. When your software code base is open, then it allows for the possibility of improvement over the original. It says to the developing community at large “we believe that you have something of value to contribute to our product, and we welcome your input.” That community then can do as they please to tweak or change the code base as they see fit. This drives forward the innovation of the product, leading to an improved product for everyone. Innovation, REAL innovation, is a collaborative process – first, last, and always. You cannot declare yourself an innovator if your perspective is that you won’t allow any outside influences access to your product, in this case the code for an operating system. What if someone else out there has an idea that could really be a game changer to your source? You are missing out on ideas, the very seeds of innovation themselves. Open source has this advantage over closed source, without question.
Once you can change a thing, you can control a thing. This allows for true customization of the end user experience – to make it the way you want it. And with an open source product, you can experience what true control really is…everything from the kernel running the battery to the entire OS itself in the form of a custom ROM can be managed and tweaked and changed. No longer are people stuck with whatever the carrier or manufacturer decides they should have – you have the power to do as you wish with the software (provided you have an unlocked boot loader and don’t mind voiding your warranty of course) to make it better. And this doesn’t even take into account more cosmetic changes, such as widgets, custom icons, and overall themes. Everything is put in the control of the end user. With a little bit of reading and patience and follow-these-instructions, everything is open to the user to make it what they choose.
What this really ends up being is fun. You get to have fun making your phone the way YOU want it. I can spend hours tweaking, modding, and customizing my phone because I get the choice to. Apple or RIM or Microsoft don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do with the product I paid for. And maybe, just maybe, if they took a little time to listen to what the developing community had to say, they might learn a few things to make their product better. Which might help their bottom line in the end. Make your product better and sell more units? Hurray for innovation!