Why Android just might beat the iPhone

Open source gives Google a killer advantage against Apple's popular gadget.

Fabrizio Capobianco, CEO of mobile open-source company Funambol, knows mobile better than most, so when he says Android has two killer features that could upend Apple's iPhone dominance, I listen. (It's particularly telling since Fabrizio has been a bit fan of the iPhone.)

The features? Open source and OTA (over-the-air) firmware updates.

Before you dismiss these two, consider Fabrizio's example: Android's potty e-mail client. With any other mobile platform, if you didn't like what the telecom provided, you'd be out of luck. Not with Android. Within a week a developer had created an alternative to Google's lame e-mail program:

A week or so ago Google was alone in developing Android. They made it open source and boom, an internal application is getting perfected by the community. End users benefit from it immediately, because they can download it for free from the Android Market (which is such an easy task to do). The OS allows you to define a default e-mail client, so you are good to go. All this, without any intervention of Google or T-Mobile. The community fixed the issue for T-Mobile...You have to love this one if you are a mobile operator.

Or a customer. Open source gives developers the opportunity to define the mobile experience on the go. Open source enables Google to put out a nice rough draft, but then allow the community to embrace and extend it over time, delivering updates OTA. Google still retains control, but the community retains influence.

It's a perfect combination, and I agree: this could well give Apple a run for its money.

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