Let 1000 Walled Gardens Bloom

On a note related to Jerry Brito’s post on “L’iPhone” at TechLiberation.com today, I’d like to point out Thomas Hazlett’s “How the ‘walled garden’ promotes innovation” in the September 26 Financial Times. The piece discusses the virtues of closed and controlled technological ecosystems and how the “walled garden” can often be a prosperous and vibrant one. Best paragraph from the piece:

Unbundling phones from networks is suggested as a policy fix in the US. European phones, working with different Sim cards across carriers and borders, are the model. Innovation in the European Union is said to flourish. But the iPhone came first to the US, as did the BlackBerry and advanced broadband networks using CDMA data formats. That is not surprising given that US networks are afforded wide latitude in designing their systems. Licenses in the EU mandate a GSM standard. What is recommended as “open” in fact deprives customers of a most basic cellular choice: technology.

Of course the real closed vs. open debate is whether we want an open economy. Open, that is, to varying business models–rather than one that is closed to any service or product that technophiles might describe with the now-curse-words “proprietary” or “closed source.” The techno-intelligentsia may value the notion of taking a phone from network to network, or being able to install Skype on anything with a processor, but it turns out that most people couldn’t care less. Ultimately that’s what matters. The systems that are adopted shouldn’t be chosen by uber-geeks and regulators, but by every-day consumers.