The Macalope: An unbroken string of success

If there’s one thing that we’ve all learned from roughly 30 years of consumer computing technology, it’s that closed always loses and open always wins.

Except when it doesn’t. And then it’s the fault of something else.

To see this school of “thought” put into practice, witness this piece by Simon Phipps in InfoWorld: BlackBerry and Nokia: The perils of a closed strategy (tip o’ the antlers to Yaakov).

Was it closed strategies that caused them to fail or was it sitting on their butts eating bonbons while their houses burned down around them and they were forced to sell said houses mid-fire?

The recent sunsets of both Nokia and BlackBerry came as no surprise to many.

Yes, when you see a truck drive off a cliff in slow motion, it’s not that surprising when it eventually explodes on impact at the bottom of the ravine.

Both companies succeeded by creating a closed ecosystem in the past (despite Nokia’s flawed flirtation with open source) …

Nokia’s use of open source failed so it must have been flawed. Remember, open source can never fail, it can only be failed.

But the world is changing.

People are changing. Hairstyles are changing. Interest rates are fluctuating.

The disadvantages of lock-in—including high costs of migrating to other solutions, forced involvement of the vendor in future changes, vendor control of the aftermarket, and more—become obvious only in the light of experience.

Because there might be disadvantages to closed systems, open systems are always better in all cases, for everything.

Except security.

And user experience.

And customer satisfaction.

And … look, the important thing is that open always wins, OK?

Except in the desktop operating system market.

Meanwhile, Mozilla is quietly building the Firefox phone.

The reason it’s so quiet might be because nobody really cares.

… Mozilla has a smouldering success on its hands.

Less in the sense of “Michael Fassbender’s smoldering good looks” and more in the sense of “failing to ignite.” How good are Firefox OS devices? Take it away, Chris Ziegler of The Verge:

To be blunt, they’re not very good: the ZTE Open and Alcatel One Touch Fire look and feel like low-end handsets from two or three years ago. The operating system—which is “made of the web,” as Mozilla proudly proclaims—seems to struggle at times to overcome the cheap silicon it’s been saddled with.

Despite being tremendous pieces of crap, look forward to having Firefox OS devices pushed on you soon! Ziegler again:

Firefox OS could actually be wildly successful, no matter how underwhelming the actual phones may be. And that’s because—at least for now—you’re not the customer; your carrier is.

That’s opentastic!

Maybe that’s what Phipps meant when he wrote:

Open companies leverage the organic marketplace open technologies and open standards create.

Also: open, open, open, open.

Closed companies try to control the technologies and standards they believe create their income, and lose when the market morphs.

Like Apple’s been losing, by making gobs of money hand over fist.

This is the problem with reducing arguments to these platitudes. Maybe Nokia would have done better if it had picked Android over Windows Phone—we’ll never really know—but stomping your feet and saying “Open is better!” isn’t an answer. Because something ostensibly “open”—Android—has had some success, Phipps believes consumers now have a preference for open systems. In reality, more consumers around the world simply favor the device with a solid ecosystem that has the lowest acquisition cost.

If you want to win in the emerging market of the meshed society, you’ll need to tame your fears of lack of control and win with open strategies.

Or, you could do what Apple did in 2007.

Make something better.

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