Ever since the battles of Windows versus Linux, there have been two strong competing philosophies on systems architecture.
Many have touted the benefits of open architecture–where system specifications are open to the public to view and to update.
Open sourced systems provide for the power of crowdsourcing to innovate, add-on, and make the systems better as well as provides less vendor lock-in and lower costs.
Open Source —–> Innovation, Choice, and Cost-Savings
While Microsoft–with it’s Windows and Office products–was long the poster child for closed or proprietary systems and has a history of success with these, they have also come to be viewed, as TechRepublic(July 2011) points out as having an “evil, monopolistic nature.”
However, with Apple’s rise to the position of the World’s most valuable company, closed solutions have made a strong philosophical comeback.
Apple has a closed architecture, where they develop and strictly control the entire ecosystem of their products.
Closed systems provides for a planned, predictable, and quality-controlled architecture, where the the whole ecosystem–hardware, software and customer experience can be taken into account and controlled in a structured way.
Closed Systems —–> Planning, Integration, and Quality Control
However, even though has a closed solutions architecture for it’s products, Apple does open up development of the Apps to other developers (for use on the iPhone and iPad). This enables Apple to partner with others and win mind share, but still they can retain control of what ends-up getting approved for sale at the App Store.
I think what Apple has done particularly well then is to balance the use of open and closed systems–by controlling their products and making them great, but also opening up to others to build Apps–now numbering over 500,000–that can leverage their high-performance products.
Additionally, the variety and number of free and 99 cent apps for example, show that even closed systems, by opening up parts of their vertical model to partners, can achieve cost-savings to their customers.
In short, Apple has found that “sweet spot”–of a hybrid closed-open architecture–where they can design and build quality and highly desirable products, but at the same time, be partners with the larger development community.
Apple builds a solid and magnificent foundation with their “iProducts,” but then they let customers customize them with everything from the “skins” or cases on the outside to the Apps that run on them on the inside.
Closed-Open Systems —–> Planned, Integrated, and Quality PLUS Innovation, Choice, and Cost-Savings
Closed-Open Systems represent a powerful third model for companies to choose from in developing products, and which benefits include those from both open and closed systems.