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Apple Will Lose to Android, Says Wikipedia Co-Founder

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It's a two-man race and few developers are picking sides. For now.

Apple and Google are in an all-out war for smartphone supremacy, and both seem to be winning. Either side has their dedicated, die-hard fans, but developers have embraced them both. A year ago, you would have app designers gravitating toward the iPhone and considering the Android platform as an afterthought. Today, however, it's a foregone conclusion that the majority of apps be designed for both the iTunes Store and Android Market -- the two most popular app marketplaces.

But the tech world is starting to see Android pull ahead, not just in devices, sales, and market share, but with job opportunities, too.

Is it because Apple is too controlling? Does Android offer more freedom? Fortune's JP Mangalindan spoke with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales about his thoughts on the future of the Apple-Google app race.

You also just spoke out against app stores and how they pose a big threat to Internet freedom. Have Apple's new in-app subscription rules changed your view on that?

It's quite likely that Apple is going to commit the classic Apple mistake of trying to be too controlling and therefore the market gets away from them and people start to move towards Android.

My big concern is, will we have devices that are completely locked down, and the only software you'll install on them is software approved by a single vendor? That's an issue in a lot of ways. From a business perspective, one of benefits of the app model is providing a really exciting time again for young programmers. You get together a team of four smart young programmers and you can actually make a lot of money. It's interesting and exciting.


But at the same time, it's like making a deal with the devil. And I don't mean to be calling Apple the devil. I'm a great admirer of Apple. But you're locking yourself into a system where Big Brother is going to be more powerful than you. Which is a pretty big deal.

What I was contrasting that with is that a lot of the brouhaha with net neutrality is fairly theoretical. People are afraid of companies doing things someday that they aren't doing now. But this is a huge market phenomenon now and it's really quite important.

So Apple's getting it wrong and Google is getting it right?

So far. To Apple's credit, from a strategy point of view, as the first player in that market with a very dominant couple of years head start, they did what they could with that, and that's great for them. At the same time, I think Apple needs to be very careful that they don't get sidelined as more and more devices [arrive]. And again, it's the classic old story of Microsoft and Apple, where Microsoft with a more open platform. But it is true. Microsoft was far more open than Apple was and won because of that.

Apple runs the risk that if they don't embrace a bit more openness in their platform, people will actually say, I've got this iPad, and my kid can't play this Flash game. So Apple's in a fight with Flash? I don't care. And yet this other device lets me run Flash. Simple as that.

Sounds like you think Apple is arrogant.

Well, I think Apple is arrogant, and I think they earned it. The iPad is an absolutely brilliant product. They brought it to market a full year, maybe more than a year, before anyone else had anything remotely competitive. That's hard to do. This is an incredibly competitive market. To do that with the iPad is just really insane. They may deserve to be a little cocky about that.

At the same time, it's the tortoise and the hare. Just because you're the first out of the box, doesn't mean you'll win in the long run. They have to be very careful and very thoughtful about how they can be a part of any ecosystem.

And Google is the tortoise then?

It's funny to think of them as a slow-plotting tortoise that will win. Google is pretty relentless, so that's very interesting.

(See also: More Jobs in Android Than iPhone and Android Is Now Number One)
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