The debate of Open Source vs. Closed Systems has been around since the beginning of digital time. The most notorious debate is of course Windows vs. Mac. For decades now, Steve Jobs and the folks at Apple have been beat up by the media for not allowing anyone to access the Mac Operating Systems. In the early days, it was Microsoft that was on the other side of the battle. Back then, Microsoft was being beat up for its lack of stability and the lack of ease when it came to daily operations of Windows PC’s.
The joke in the computer support world was “Friends get Macs, Customers get PCs.”
Today the Windows / Mac battle is down to software needs and personal choice. With HP leaving the PC market, there may be a little resurgence of the reliability question. I have three HP PCs which are likely to be replaced by Macs. Today, Windows 7 has proven to be very reliable and stable on my three HP PCs. Windows 7 is a major improvement over Vista on just about every front, making it my only choice for a PC operating system.
And yet the open source battle rages on and Apple is still at the center. This time it is on the mobile devices stage and in the ring are Apple and Google. It is the iPad/iPhone OS 4.X vs. Android 2.2 and 2.3. Over and over I have heard that the Android operating system is “just like an iPhone”. Last week I decided to try for myself. I bought an Android based tablet. Just to verify the validity of open source, I chose the least expensive on the market, the iDolian TouchTab. I mean if your are going to tell me a major benefit of open source is cost, I want to test the lowest cost.
Out of the box, the preloaded apps on the iDolian Android Tablet worked perfect. All of the normal things worked fine, like email, internet browsing, and photos. The settings weren’t iPad simple, but I was able to set up the entire iDolian Android Tablet up without referring to the manual. I consider this a requirement of all new technology platforms. I figure if your product requires me to read the manual, you aren’t ready for the mainstream crossing of the chasm.
In all fairness, I have the iPad 2 with 64GB and 3G. So a couple of things started to bug me right off the bat. I have been using the iPad 2 as a laptop replacement when I travel. I really like the weight and overall performance. The only glitch for me is that Safari doesn’t work well with the version of WordPress on our server here at Beach Street News. I have to email the article to my desktop and then post it.
For the Test I purchased the iDolian Android Tablet bundle for $242. The Bundle included a cover that had a built in keyboard. This was a very cool feature. My iPad has a wireless keypad I put in my checked luggage so I don’t have it while sitting in the airport. Which, by the way is a benefit of both the iPad and Android Tablets, you can leave them in your luggage when going through airport security.
One of the first features I noticed with the iDolian Android Tablet was how it stayed on, even with the cover closed. I checked this several times. When I closed the cover, the little Android tablet didn’t go to standby, but I am sure there is an app on the Google Marketplace for that.
Finally the real testing started. Heading down the road of compatibility with the iDolian Android tablet, I found that Facebook and Firefox didn’t work. The battle began. Next I gave it to my wife to test. I asked her to test it for work. Instead she tried to load Netflix, which doesn’t work, but she was able to watch Big Brother in the airport on cbs.com.
Finally she tried to log into her office. She could not log on to her work with either the iPad or the iDolian Android tablet. Her employer requires Internet Explorer or Firefox. Since I couldn’t get the Firefox download to work on the iDolian TouchTab we were out of luck. Neither of these browsers are available for the iPad either. This test is a draw.
Facebook worked fine on the iPad, along with Netflix. After my discussion with Jay Kim at iDolian, I thought I was having flash backs of the IBM vs. The “White Box” PC battle. It turns out that the standard (read dirt cheap) chipset didn’t work with some applications. Jay said that we had to upgrade to the better version of the iDolian Tablet, the C8 TouchTab to use Facebook and Firefox.
It was clear, the open source vs. closed systems battle continues. As we went through several applications we found that the iDolian performed like a champ for 90% of the apps we tried. Many of the Quiautosoft apps worked perfectly along with most of the other standard desktop replacement apps. Roy of Quiatosoft (Android apps) says the trick is to keep the app very simple to insure compatibility.
Jay Kim at iDolian also told me that the chipsets are all different and some of the problems are chip problems and others are “app” problems. Jay pointed out that even the major manufacturers like Samsung have compatibility issues with some apps. Many app companies have a list of “tested phones” on their help sites. I find it a little funny to think of this Android Tablet as a giant phone.
While the iPad isn’t 100% perfect, it is clear the closed environment at least guarantees that when you download an app, it has been tested to work. With the Android systems, there is a chance that your device isn’t compatible. Since an Android Tablet can be cost 50% – 70% less than an iPad, it is definitely worth looking at the basic Android Tablets like the iDolian at $219 if you don’t need Facebook, and even if you want the whole deal, the top of the line iDolian C8 is only $299. Lets face it, for a kids game toy, for under $250 with a keyboard, the TouchTab bundle isn’t a bad deal even if a few apps are working. So when you find a new iPad for that price, let me know.
The last difference is of course the Apple app store vs. the Android marketplace. When I entered “Netflix” on the App Store using the iPad, the real Netflix app pops right up along with a couple of better alternative apps. When I did the same think using the Android Tablet to access the Marketplace, I couldn’t even find the app. I had to go to netflix.com and then go to the link from there. This is a little strange to me, what do you think? The same was true for Facebook and Firefox. Maybe the market place was only showing me the apps that work on that tablet? I’ll give you an update when the new Android Tablet arrives.