Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Open-Platforms Vs. Walled-Gardens

I've been jabbering for quite a while now that I have been planning on switching over to full-time Linux use at home very soon. A few years ago, I used Linux at home full-time for about a year-and-a-half and was super happy. Then, I desperately needed to do something that was only possible in Windows, so I added Windows 7 Pro as a second-boot OS on my PC and so began the downward spiral.

Years later, after a 3-year stint with both Windows and Mac OS X (via a MacBook Pro, which I actually loved), I have been using Windows 7 full-time for the last two years. Then, late last year, after ordering it in October and finally receiving it two days before Christmas, I dove head-first into the world of Windows 8 RT via a 10" tablet from Dell. It has been the worst computing mistake I have ever made. It's definitely time for a change.

As I read an article discussing open platforms earlier this morning, I began to realize that what I want is not necessarily to switch to an open-source OS full-time but, rather, to utilize devices that run on open platforms which enable me to do as I damn-well please with said device. The distinction is clear and very important. Put simply, I demand to be able to do whatever I want to with the devices I purchase.

When I purchase a device, it is usually for a semi-specific purpose, or to fill a need. For example, my iPhone functions as a phone, but provides apps such as Google Maps, Foursquare, and Radarscope that fill certain, specific needs that make sense to have available via my smartphone since it is always with me. The problem is that, although the apps I mentioned are awesome, highly useful - and highly used - apps on my phone, the entire platform is closed so that, if those apps were not available via the iOS App Store, I would not be able to install them on my iPhone and thus utilize them to fill the needs that they subsequently fill. See? For that reason alone I will be switching to a high-end Android phone ASAP.

For now, I will hang onto my Alienware notebook, with Windows 7 installed, and continue to benefit from an open platform there. Yes, Windows 7 is open because you can install any software you wish to install and are not restricted to just using software from an app store. If the need ever arises, or my desires shift, I'll either replace Windows 7 with Linux or dual-boot. The Windows 8 RT tablet has got to go, however. Not only is it a fully closed platform but it is severely lacking in useful app selection. That tablet, unfortunately, doesn't even fill the need for which I bought it, at this point. And I refuse to even discuss the iPad. Not only is iOS a closed-platform, as discussed above, but the hardware cost is outrageous!

Thus, I am looking at most-likely purchasing either a Google Nexus 7, or possibly a Nexus 10 if I decide that I want a full-sized tablet. The cool thing about Android, by the way, is that I can get ALL of the apps I use most on my iPhone from the Google Play Store, in addition to being able to sideload apps to my heart's content.

Moving forward, I can guarantee that I will no longer purchase devices that are not built around an open-platform. I suspect, also, that as the lines blur between desktop machines and mobile devices, more and more people will also make the same distinction and choose openness over walled-gardens. Just ask Valve Software.