As I read about the low cost tablets popping up in India like the $140 Classmate and the $45 Akash, I can’t help but wonder, would these low cost tablets exist if it were not for Google and their open source Android operating system?
It once again points to the importance that open source software plays in driving innovation. If Google had decided to create a proprietary operating system available only to an elite group of manufacturers with hefty licensing fees, would we see these kinds of inexpensive products appearing? Would we be seeing the kind of uptake of mobile devices that we are seeing right now?
Sure, you can argue that these tablets are nothing but cheap riffs on a truly innovative product (the much more expensive iPad), and you wouldn’t find me necessarily disagreeing: the iPad was a truly innovative product that created a whole new segment of products. But it is one thing to create an innovative product, and quite another to create an innovative environment that enables more innovation, especially innovation that lowers the cost barrier and allows technology to move from the elite to the common.
More is different. And by providing us with an open source platform to build on, Google has helped ensure that we will see what this different will look like.
Image: Powered by Android by JD Hancock used under Creative Commons Attribution license.