Closed networks, its proponents maintain, offer a trade-off. Individuals or outside developers can’t make any changes or improvements to it. But since the network and its applications are controlled at a single source, individuals are supposed to get an easier experience in which they don’t have to think about the network, just what they’re doing on it. Trust the network.
I was thinking about that earlier today when I tried to check my AT&T balance on my locked-into-AT&T iPhone. The built-in “AT&T MyAccount” link deposited me on a web page that could not recognize my phone or my account. That’s right: I was using an AT&T software service on an AT&T network and it couldn’t identify my device. Even when my phone’s entire interaction was on an AT&T network and software, the company was unable to perform the most basic customer service: recognize me. Tell me again what the benefits of a closed network are?
Even our-closed-is-beautiful poster child Apple is starting to move (albeit kicking and screaming) toward a more open iPhone software platform, in the hope that the ensuing innovation will grow its market. Are the mobile networks such as AT&T capable of doing the same?