Kings of the “closed” discuss “openness”

What happens when a bunch of executives for corporations who pioneered closed devices running siloed and proprietary operating systems, who work and-in-hand with corporate providers who are famous for running “walled gardens” suddenly have their lunch handed to them by a corporation who made a better device, which is easier to develop for, who allows anyone to download the developer tools for free (rather than charging between several hundred and several tens of thousands for the dev tools), and allows anyone to sign software for a nominal fee?

Simple: these Kings of Silos, these Grounds Keepers of the Walled Gardens, these Maintainers of Closed Ecosystems bitch about the lack of “openness” by the latecomer who changed the rules for the better.

Apple is top of mind for execs at MWC

The panel which included three of the most powerful CEOs in the mobile industry–Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, the second largest mobile operator in the U.S.; Olli-Pekka Kallasvu, CEO of Nokia, the world’s largest handset maker, and Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, the worldwide software leader–centered on the need for more openness to spur successful innovation in the mobile market.

But the discussion quickly devolved into the need for openness, despite the growing success of Apple, considered the most closed player in the industry.

The most closed player in the industry? Are you fucking kidding me?

Yes, Google has an even more open operating system, the Android, for mobile phones. But at the moment Android is a marginal player.

And who are the other principles on the stage at MWC? AT&T Mobility, who imposed the closed restrictions on Apple in order to allow Apple to play in their closed walled garden, Nokia, who until recently charged some serious change to use the Symbian development tools, and still features the Nokia Pro premium service which is invitation only, and who charges twice as much as Apple to allow you to sign an application for distribution. And Microsoft, who still charges serious change for the correct version of Virtual C++ to develop Windows Mobile applications, and who used to charge per signing for signing applications–including those being signed for beta testing.

I just don’t get it.

What’s funny is that only recently did Nokia make their development environment free–but that doesn’t overcome the fact that Symbian is still a nightmare to develop for. (Really, who ships a mobile operating system with two–count them, two user interface APIs?) And Microsoft’s Windows CE is, um, ah, well, like a walk down memory lane: if you were a Windows 95 developer a decade ago, you’ll be right at home in Windows CE–aside from the odd restrictions and, um, clumsy ways of handling display windows.

The real irony of all of this, however, is the following quote from Ballmer:

“I agree that no single company can create all the hardware and software,” he said. “Openness is central because it’s the foundation of choice.”

Erm, is this supposed to be a hidden slight at Apple, who just ate Windows CE’s lunch in the United States and is poised to eat Symbian’s lunch (except for the most stripped down no-feature underpowered phones) in Europe.

I’m just amazed that these idiots, in their whole drive to make sure they didn’t become as pointless in the mobile world as Earthlink became in the wired world, left such a huge chunk of change on the table that it took an upstart and a nearly bankrupt walled gardener who was desperate for a hit to show folks how things could be done–and essentially create demand in a segment that until recently was a fringe marketplace. After all, until the iPhone came out, how many people were willing to pay $300 for a phone that also involved a two year, nearly $60/month (for the most basic service) service contract? Pre-iPhone, mobile phones were giveaway devices that were given to you for free as part of your service contract.

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