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What if Apple really opened up the iPhone?

Mobile-platform manager at Google predicts that sales of Android-based devices will outpace those of iPhone. It's the same dilemma Apple has faced over the years.

Will Android beat iPhone?

Speaking yesterday at the Emerging Communications Conference at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, Rich Miner, Google group manager for mobile platforms, predicted that sales of Android-based devices will outpace those of the iPhone.

In other words, the iPhone will be unlike the iPod-iTunes combo when it comes to dominating a market.

Could there be an HTC iPhone?

Miner uses the Microsoft licensing and open-source models to make his case. "When you have devices out there from Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and so on, there's a much larger potential market on Android than for the iPhone," Miner said.

In other words, having a mostly closed device (except to the iPhone hackers)--with one manufacturer and one carrier per country, as well as applications tied to the Mac OS--is not a formula for creating massive demand. Apple will sell in the tens of millions in a market for smart communications devices that is in the billions.

It's the same dilemma Apple has faced over the years. Should the Mac OS be licensed to any reasonably qualified manufacturer? Clearly, Steve Jobs has proven that he can create a great PC business with 5 percent market share.

The Open Handset Alliance contingent of Google's Android is really going after the business of Microsoft, Research In Motion, and Symbian with its open-source mobile-software stack and applications platform, which makes Miner's remarks about the iPhone unsurprising.

Any one of the big players can beat the iPhone in market share, if Apple continues with its proprietary approach.

What if Apple does free the iPhone software and touch technology? Would it become the dominant mobile-device operating system and application platform? Talk among yourselves.