Apple's closed approach to its iOS mobile ecosystem will ultimately force it to become a niche player in the global phone market, according to AVG chief executive Gary Kovacs.
Kovacs, speaking to V3, said that while the closed approach to iOS allowed it to become an early leader and innovator in the phone market it will ultimately force businesses and consumers to embrace open systems, such as Google Android.
"Apple is a vision leader, an innovator whose products work great together. But, over time [firms such as this are] not usually the volume leaders. This is for a number of different reasons, but mainly because the flexibility of the platform isn't there," he said.
"We're seeing the same trend they had on desktop with mobile, where they showed the way with their user interface, which made the machines so simple to use. But [Apple] ended up settling with only seven to nine percent of the laptop and desktop market. Windows machines, from a bulk of different manufacturers, became the majority.
"Mobile devices, phones specifically, are going the same way. Apple now holds substantially below 20 percent of devices sold in the world – even though their devices are, debatably, still the most elegant."
Kovacs listed the extra hassle Apple's closed approach causes developers wanting to create products for the iPhone as a key reason why iOS will eventually lose out.
"I believe closed standards and proprietary technologies often are the way technology innovation starts. It's hard to standardise on something that is yet to be invented. But as soon as something is invented there is a push to standardise the technology so that more participants can play. For example, there are 10 million developers in the world but only 300,000-400,000 iOS developers," he said
"I mean 10 million is a couple of orders of magnitude more significant, so if we open up a platform to those 10 million developers we create a level and scale of innovation that can't be matched or replicated on a proprietary system. Over time open standards typically win."
The AVG chief has been a long proponent of open mobile standards. Kovacs famously spearheaded the creation of Mozilla's Firefox operating system (OS). Based purely on HTML5, the OS is intentionally designed to be as open and easy to create applications for as possible.
Kovacs said competition between manufacturers using Android will also lead to hardware innovations. "What stops people from going there is largely just the economics of the whole platform. As many different manufacturers using Android start to compete with each other it drives cost down and innovation up and that's what people react too over time," he said.
Kovacs' comments follow widespread praise within the security community for Apple's closed approach to iOS. The approach sees Apple vet any application for quality and safety before putting it on sale in its official App Store. The model has proved successful from a security standpoint, with there yet to be a reported serious malware outbreak on the platform. F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen also praised the approach for its security, listing iOS' malware-free status as one of the biggest security achievements of the century.
Android by comparison, which doesn't pre-scan applications and lets developers tweak code as they like, has been besieged by malware. Most recently the US Department of Homeland Security issued a report claiming that 79 percent of all mobile malware is designed to target Android.
Kovacs argued despite the troubling figure, ultimately businesses and consumers will still move to open platforms that can more quickly react to their needs.
"While some argue Apple is more secure as it is closed I argue whether or not that is true isn't really the point. The point is those proprietary systems don't usually persist because the cost of the systems is less innovation. Right now Android has more apps than Apple and that differentiation will probably continue to scale. We're going to again see that closed systems lose out to open systems," he said.
Kovacs' comments have been backed by many analyst houses, which have universally listed Android as the fastest-growing mobile ecosystem. Most recently Strategy Analytics listed Android as accounting for 80 percent of all smartphone shipments.
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