There is a downright war going on about which mobile operating system is the best, mainly between Android and iOS fans, but that is not the point here. Following the development of personal computers and comparing it with that of smartphones, or mobile devices in general, we could ask ourselves:
Where would we be without Android?
The idea of smartphones wasn’t born with the iPhone, it started long ago with digital organizers and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant). In 1994 IBM was the first to combine a cellular phone with a PDA, the IBM Simon. The Simon had a touch screen and was also able to send and receive faxes and emails, in addition to its function as a digital organizer. A year later Hewlett-Packard redesigned its palm computer HP 200LX to connect with a Nokia 2110 phone, introducing the HP Omnigo 700LX. Nokia took the idea and developed its first smartphone, the Nokia 9000 Communicator, basically a phone that opened up as a palm computer. Development continued slowly, with Blackberry and Nokia concentrating on business customers, controlling the market, and Windows still believing that their dominance in the PC market will automatically bring them dominance in the mobile computing business.
The real game changer came in 2007 with the iPhone. Apple did a great job with the first iPhone, with Steve Jobs deserving most of the credit. He introduced a beautifully designed smartphone, that could do a lot of cool things, and was fun to use; breaking with the tradition that practical gadgets must look dull and be boring to use. The iPhone was the beginning of the end of Nokia, Blackberry was still relevant in the business sector but losing grip. Microsoft arrogantly thought that the dependence on its operating system would inevitably result in its success in the smartphone sector. Apple and its iPhone would of had the monopoly on smartphones, if it were not for Android’s debut in 2008, the HTC Dream was introduced as the first smartphone to use the open-source platform.
The easy access to Android and its gradual success caused Microsoft and Blackberry to develop whole new operating systems from scratch. Android made it affordable for many manufacturers to enter the smartphone market and the systems open nature motivated developers to add new advanced features or even develop their own version like Cyanogen or Firefox OS.
If Google hadn’t introduced the Android OS, Apple would have become the Microsoft of smartphones, with the difference that Apple would have also controlled the hardware we used. Total Control.
I used to hate Windows, I had the impression that most of my time was spent trying to solve compatibility problems or get the software to work properly. The felt arrogance that accompanied the company’s dominance and its perceived ignorance towards its user’s plights annoyed me. I tried Linux, but at that time it was difficult to integrate it into a Window’s dominated environment and Mac was the same only much more expensive, so I was stuck with using Windows and cursing it every second day. I wanted and needed to use the technology but I was not enjoying it most of the time.
But with mobile devices now competing with the traditional PC, it seems as if Microsoft is trying harder to do a good job and is actually responding to customer needs and preferences.
I am convinced that if Android had not developed into a serious competition for the Iphone, Apple would have followed the same course as Microsoft, seeing no real need for innovation, especially after the passing away of Steve Jobs. Their market domination coupled with their enormous money reserves would have given them the means to squash any competitors, leaving consumers with no other comparable alternative.
That is why Android is a blessing. It gives those who are not comfortable with iOS’s closed system an alternative. It makes mobile technology accessible to people in developing countries who can not afford the high-end expensive Iphone handsets and the sometimes necessary paid services. It enables hardware diversity and gives manufacturers the chance to get creative with their software solutions. Unfortunately some have used this chance to add bloatware to their products instead of enhancing the user experience, their mismanagement is to blame not the operating system. The competition from Android also spurs on Apple to constantly improve its products, and vice versa.
I must add that Steve Jobs was a blessing for consumers too. He introduced the concept of esthetic design and user friendly interfaces to consumer electronics. I won’t give Apple the credit for this achievement, I am sure Apple, as a corporation, would have opted for cheaper and more practical hardware.
For some unknown reason people take it very personally when it comes to their phone’s operating system. I do prefer Android over iOS but I would also recommend some people to use an iPhone. At the end of the day we are talking about very rich corporations who are competing for our money, let’s at least try to get the best out of it and not make it too easy for them, in that we blindly consume everything they throw at us.