July 31, 2010

The holy war: iPhone vs Android

While I'm still in Italy, enjoying the sun, I couldn't resist copying Umberto Eco's famous article on Mac vs Dos. Not very original of me. Even more after modifying some of the first lines to make the whole thing a little more actual, I just gave up trying to be as witty as Umberto Eco. He out-intellectuals me a 100.000 times even while he sleeps. So if you don't like this, just conclude I took too much sun.


Dear friends, earthlings, gadgetlovers, nerds and freaks, I guess it's finally time to reach a final decision on what keps us busy for many days, weeks and some of you months. Is the earth flat, almost flat, a bit round, kind of a bal or a perfect sphere? Are we better of without a government, as Hobbes said (and many Belgians experience daily), or is Hobbes just a tiger that comes alive when another imaginary character thinks he does? Who's really the president of Russia, has he been gone, or will he be back and is anyone really waiting for him? Does the iPod and/or kindle kill iBooks and video on demand or rather do they fuel it? Will Twitter replace the phone? Whether computers kill inspiration or do they just inspire you to copy copy copy what Umberto wrote?

One can continue with: whether Nostradamus was a terrorist; whether Obama will start driving an electric car or will America introduce genetically modified, petrol fueled fish and seabirds? Will more Italians migrate to Belgium now that not only the queen but also the premier will be or Italian origin? Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It's an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.

The fact is that the world is starting to get divided between users of the iPhone and users of Android phones. I am firmly of the opinion that the iPhone is Catholic and that Android is Protestant. Indeed, the iPhone is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach -- if not the kingdom of Heaven -- the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous (although beautiful) icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.

The Linux powered phone is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

You may object that, with the passage to Android, the Linux power phone universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the iPhone. It's true: Android represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to Linux to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to.

Naturally, the Catholicism and Protestantism of the two systems have nothing to do with the cultural and religious positions of their users. One may wonder whether, as time goes by, the use of one system rather than another leads to profound inner changes. Can you use Android and still be a fan of Megan Fox? And more: Would Cicero have communicated using Seesmic, HootSuite or Twitdroid? Would Descartes have programmed in for the iPhone store or for the Android market?

And machine code, which lies beneath and decides the destiny of both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that belongs to the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic. The Jewish lobby, as always....