Google took an interesting step recently by adding a service called App Licensing to the Android SDK. I haven't looked at it in detail, but the gist of it is that it's a license validation system for third party apps. It allows third party apps to check with the Android Marketplace to see if it's authorized to run on the particular device. To simplify it beyond recognition: It's sort of like Steam for Android Apps.
This is a bit of a double-edged sword for Google, though. Steam-style online authentication isn't exactly warmly embraced by the proponents of "open" systems, but given how easy it is to pirate applications downloaded from the Android Marketplace (and then return them for a refund!), it's probably a necessary step to attract developers to the platform. Google has to at least look like they're trying to stop the rampant piracy.
But here's the thing: With an open source OS, I can think of a dozen different ways to try and circumvent something like this, and I'm hardly a 1337 hacker. Google can add complexity and make it harder to circumvent, but if someone with the right skills has full access and control over the hardware and software, you can't stop them from getting around any kind of licensing authentication scheme you create. It's like DRM. Within a few months (at most), there'll be an exploit or hack to allow pirated Marketplace apps that use App Licensing to be run without a license. I can almost guarantee it. Google can keep changing the process to fight the pirates, but it's a losing battle, and likely would entail a lot of inconvenience to developers in the process.
This is one area where a closed system has advantages. For us iPhone developers, only about 10% of our potential audience can possibly pirate our apps because pirating requires jailbreaking. That 10% is the starting point. The most it can be. Jailbraking is a quid pro quo, so 90% of our potential market can't, won't, or wouldn't know how to pirate an app. But the real number is even smaller than that. Not everybody who jailbreaks their phone pirates apps - there are other valid reasons to jailbreak (so I'm told, I've never been tempted myself) - and I know people who have jailbroken their phones who are ethical and wouldn't consider pirating an app.
There's no doubt that there are advantages to "open" systems, but there are also disadvantages. In this particular case, one of the most major drawbacks of "open" doesn't hurt Google or the Wireless providers, it hurts third party developers. If that wasn't true, Google wouldn't be devoting engineering hours to try and stop it with 'app licensing'.
Life as an iPhone Dev has it's problems, no doubt. When you have an app sitting in review for months, the way Briefs has been, when you get rejected on seemingly arbitrary or inconsistent grounds, or when you can't implement something that would benefit your users because of a term in the license agreement, it sucks. But, when all is said and done, a good app on the App Store properly promoted can make enough money for a development team to live on. Until that can be said about the "open" Android Marketplace, I simply can't buy into the "open is better" mantra.
If a curated platform offers a better user experience and allows third party developers to actually make money, I just don't see "curated" as a dirty word, no matter how many times Google's Android Evangelist tweets it.