Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Andy wants you to buy his openness

On Tuesday, the Merc had a (very brief) Q&A with Android founder, now Google Mobile executive Andy Rubin.

I recommend the entire interview, but let me quote the most relevant passage to this blog:

Q: Since you started this effort, industry and government regulators have moved toward making the market much more open. Given that, is Google's Android effort still necessary?

A: I think so. It's a progression. We're at a moment in time right now, but the definition of openness is going to change over time.

What does openness mean? Is a platform that is open to outside programmers open? Is a platform that has an open content store open? Is a platform that's open source open? All those definitions are still in flux, I think.

So I don't think it's time to give up. I think it's time to double down.
I certainly agree with most of this — openness is ambiguous, with lots of definitions. However — like others — I reject the idea that “open” is a bright line, black or white — rather than shades of gray.

One of the shades of gray, of course, is whether openness in (say) hardware is more important than openness in (say) search engine choice.

Still, Rubin seems to have an element of realism (and perhaps self-awareness) absent from other Google exec pronouncements. I’m not quite as skeptical as Steve Jobs is about “do no evil” — but clearly Google (like other companies) is spending most of its time doing what’s good for Google.

Thus far in mobile, Google has used openness in its mobile platform as a club to gain influence or advantage over the various industry incumbents. To the degree to which the openness is genuine and accurately portrayed, Google certainly deserves credit both for giving people what they want and pressuring the rest of the industry to be more open.

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