Thursday, February 11, 2010

(empo-tuulwey) Closed proprietary systems are not limited to the tech world - h/t @wae

There are those of us who loudly trumpet how wonderful open systems are...and then we go out and buy closed systems. Let's face it - what if you were to go to your average person on the street and say this?

I'd like to sell you a computer in which the operating system comes from the same vendor that manufactures the hardware, and you're not allowed to run the operating system on any other hardware. Oh, and by the way, this computer manufacturer also offers a cell phone, which only runs on one network and can't run on any other network. And the manufacturer must approve any applications that you install on the cell phone. And you pay through the nose for these limitations.

In certain segments of the tech community, the response would be:


Now, of course this is only part of the story. The reason why Apple is able to get away with this is because of a (somewhat well-substantiated) belief that Apple products offer higher quality than the competition. In fact, the argument can be made that Apple products offer higher quality BECAUSE of their closed proprietary nature. Obviously it's easier for Apple to ensure that its OS is compatible with the target hardware than for Microsoft to ensure that its OS is compatible with the target hardware. And, while Apple's application limitations on the iPhone certainly reduce the competition for Apple and its partners such as AT&T, the application approval process does help to ensure that people using iPhone applications have a quality user experience. (Remember DOS-like applications on the Mac? That won't happen with the iPhone.)

Well, I was recently reminded that this "open vs. proprietary" debate does not only occur in the tech world, when I saw this tweet from @wae (thibault wacrenier):

Ipad & Nespresso, that's an interesting point of view :

The link goes to this post from Matthieu Delgrange. Here's an excerpt:

En revanche, la tablette iPad est la seule à proposer un magasin intégré et simple d'utilisation, permettant d'acheter vos contenus digitaux et vos applications en ligne. En intégrant iTunes Store au coeur de l'iPad, Apple positionne son magasin comme premier pas pour l'achat en ligne. Même si théoriquement vous pourrez toujours acheter vos MP3 où bon vous semble, seul iTunes Store offrira une expérience utilisateur simple. Coté applications, c'est réglé, vous ne pourrez pas acheter ailleurs que sur l'App Store !

OK, I may work for a French company, but I still needed Google Translate to get the gist of the post. Here's its translation of the paragraph above:

In contrast, the iPad tablet is the only store to offer integrated and easy to use, to purchase your digital content and applications online. By integrating iTunes Store in the heart of the iPad, Apple positions its stores as a first step to buying online. Although theoretically you can always buy your MP3s wherever you want, only iTunes Store will offer a simple user experience. Side applications, it is settled, you can not buy elsewhere than on the App Store!

In other words, the territory that we already covered above. But the point of the article is expressed at the beginning, where the iPad is referred to as "le Nespresso de l'informatique" (the Nespresso computer).

I've discussed Nespresso before (in the comments to my Flavia post), in a tweet from last spring, and in a Foursquare checkin. As the Foursquare checkin notes, I have the ability to buy Nespresso packets (the "application software") from a brick and mortar store, but if I didn't, I'd go to the appropriate web page (the "app store") to make the purchase. I'm not going to get Nespresso packets at my local Wal-Mart, and to date I have not found a third party company that offers packets compatible with my Nespresso machine.

If you want to talk about a closed, proprietary system, this is it.

But Nespresso lovers put up with it because of the quality of the coffee, although I'm sure that there is a subset of Nespresso users who bail, saying that the closed system isn't worth it and Folger's or Kirkland or whatever meets their needs quite nicely.

And one does not have to be consistently an open systems person or a closed systems person. I'm sure there are people who use Nespresso and Windows - in fact, I'm one of them. There are probably people who drink Kirkland coffee while using their iPad. And there are certainly people (I know one of these also) who hook their iPods up to Windows computers because they don't see the point of a Mac, but they love their iPods.

But if you see someone waving the open systems banner and loudly declaring that closed systems are evil, ask them what coffee they drink in the morning.

(Picture source, license)
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