I have just argued that Google is beating Microsoft because it is adopting a new Hybrid Open Model. But that is not entirely true. Google is actually using the Apache “Open” License that does not require that all code built upon its Open Source has to be returned to the community as Open Source as well. This departure from pure Open Source [think GPL]allows software developers to “make money” with proprietary or closed code in Android if they so choose [they can and some do make their Android apps open source too]. It meansapp developers do not have to wait for the small distribution revenues and less reliable support/maintenance payments to recoup their costs.
So Android App vendors are likely to be happy sooner if they produce a good product; but there are still potential pitfalls with the Google Hybrid Open Model.
So lets look at two potential problems with the Apache/Google Hybrid Open Model. What happens if an app vendor with a very popular product starts to charge monopoly prices or fails to update their product on a timely basis ? Well normal market mechanisms should apply – high prices and sloppy service will allow competitors to come in and since they charge less and serve better – they should be able to take market share from the errant app vendor. A market lead, copyright, trademark and/or patents might be able to stonewall/delay the inevitable but not forever. Also Google as an interested third party may decide to speed up the replacement process by making available functions and routines that speed up the development of 3rd party replacement apps. Or Google may do so itself.
The second problem with the Hybrid Open Model is potentially more pernicious. What if Google forgets its “Do no evil” pledge and starts to deliver more chunks of code for free but closed from Android code disclosure. And then a little later Google starts to charge for the extensions and runtimes at ever increasing rates. And finally, Google does a Microsoft, having sucker punched software app vendors into an increasingly closed system with cheap and free, it now starts charge more and/or to take bigger chunks of the business for itself.
There are 3 preventive measures. First, HP, Apple. Intel/Nokia and RIM will likely have competitive OS systems and app vendors can switch with various degrees of ease. But another option is for taking their software off the Google platform. In a second option, app vendors and hardware providers can ban together, take the open portion of Android and write their own AndroidBetter system and bypass the “Doing Evil” Google. Third, and finally Linus Torvalds and a host of others Open Source providers could stop updating Linux portion of Android and other Open resources that Google depends on across all its product lines – and effectively strangle the strangler.
But well before these Draconian measures need be taken, Google would face censure in the IT Mindshare Market that it could ill afford to lose. Also they have already had brushes with the FTC and DOJ. No need to repeat the awshuks-we-are-just-funloving-geek-hackers facade of Microsoft. In the long term, this is derelict as Redmond has found out after shafting its own brand and almost all it customers and stakeholders with security disasters for the early 2000’s followed by the IE6 finger on functional updates during the mid 2000’s followed by the Windows Vista pricing and functional catastrophe. So I am assuming that Sergei, Larry, and Eric can write off this Redmond hardball strategy. Besides they are sitting on the magic money making formula – advertising payable by clicks. And since they still largely control the clickable/measurable/infinitely customizable replacement for broadcast advertising – why become greedy and spoil a good thing?