Open Interfaces Needed
Customers demand choice, choice drives competition, and competition drives innovation and lowered cost. That's a Free Market Economy, right?
Well, no economic or political system is completely pure. Take my iPod for example. iPod's are small, pretty, and surprisingly reliable from a software perspective. But once you buy one, you're locked into "accessory monopoly." Not an Apple accessory monopoly exactly, but a monopoly on the iPod hardware interface itself. I have an Alpine iPod deck with a digital interface in my car, an Onkyo iPod dock on my home stereo, and a couple of iPod chargers. All of these plug into the digital interface on the bottom of the iPod. The interface is nice. It provides digital extraction of MP3 files so that decoding can be done by external A/V equipment. It provides high-quality line-level output for an external analog interface. It provides the ability to extract the music list for external display (on my TV or my Alpine's screen). It's also proprietary.
Here's the thing. Someday I'll have to replace my iPod, either because the battery won't hold a charge, or it runs out of capacity, or some crazy lady decides to smash it with a hammer. When that time comes, I'd like to evaluate the MP3 combo player/phone/camera/e-book/blender/tazer options on the market and pick the one that fits my needs. If Apple hasn't kept up with the competitors, then suddenly all of this iPod accessory stuff goes on eBay. That's just wrong!
Perhaps, but that's called vendor lock-in. It seems anti-capitalist, because I could be stuck with something technically inferior, sort of like Vista on my Dell. Yet, any company in their right mind wants to drive towards vendor lock-in because it's a guaranteed revenue stream. Call me an idealist, but wouldn't vendor loyalty based on product superiority and interoperability be a better approach?
The iPod hardware interface isn't a differentiator. Sure it's a royalty stream for Apple, but it's not a technical differentiator. API's in Eclipse aren't really technical differentiators either, and they certainly aren't proprietary. Eclipse has focused on vendor loyalty, not vendor lock-in.
Interfaces on commodity hardware and software should be open. Let customers pick the winners!