Personal Website and Blog for Akash Badshah

Are you happy with your current smartphone OS?  If not you might want to decide soon because it is becoming increasingly difficult to switch. Within a few years expect to become tied to a tech-osystem with little or no chance to switch.

In the past few weeks companies like Apple and Microsoft have made extensive product reveals that all point to one objective for tech companies: get you to become *insert tech company here* power users. That means buying any and all of their products from smartphones to tablets to PCs to game consoles and everything in between. They are doing this by tightly integrating all of their services and products so that owning more than one enables added functionality. This concept isn’t new, in fact it dates as far back as consumer technology itself. The difference is that these services are being integrated at a profound new level, the OS level, and being pushed across more devices than ever before.

Microsoft has done an excellent job of showing where the market is headed with their recent product announcements across the board. For Microsoft the integration is noticeable from first sight. All new Microsoft products are starting to employ the same tile based menu layout and UI (called the Metro UI). While this change is only cosmetic, it represents their work to integrate all their different OSs into one. They are trying to tightly relate their services so that they can unite all of their customer bases under one common flag. This means more Xbox capability in Windows and Windows Phone, app integration across the board, and OS integration so that tasks started on one device can be seamlessly picked up on the next. Eventually, there is some notion that the form factor of the device will be lost entirely. There will be one OS that runs across all platforms, and perhaps only one device that plugs into larger form factors (much like the Motorola Atrix).

Apple too is pushing integration in a big way in order to convince customers that owning Apple everything pays off. They showed this integration from Mac OSX Lion, which aims to be more and more like iOS, to iCloud which wants to pull all of your Apple data and services into the cloud and make them accessible from any iDevice. The rest are all there too, from Sony integrating Playstation Services across devices and with Android, to HP building a WebOS ecosystem for phones, tablets, PCs, and anything else they can run the OS on. Even companies like Google with fragmentation within Android and between Android and ChromeOS, is pushing for tighter integration and control with each release of a new OS.

The trend is simple, every tech company wants to have their foot in the door on every major platform and now they want to integrate across those platforms to show why buying into their franchise will pay off for consumers. Fortunately for consumers, this trend offers a lot of huge benefits. All these companies are developing these products for the ease of the consumer, so that we can switch across our multiple platforms and get to our content quickly. In that regard there is no question that the growth of ecosystems is positive for consumers.

Unfortunately, the development of each of these individual ecosystems has a huge downside for consumers looking for choice. It essentially makes it impossible to switch. If all of my digital life is locked up in iDevices, or Microsoft products, then even switching my phone means that I either also switch all of my other devices as well or lose a lot of functionality. This problem is exacerbated if you look at the Motorola Atrix model, switching my one device means that now my laptop, phone, tablet, and game system have all switched. This is a huge problem especially if I decide that individually Apple makes the best OS for phones, Google the best for tablets, and Microsoft the best for PCs.

The problem also extends to one of cost and compatibility. This problem is present even now especially as smartphone users try to switch platforms and find that all of the apps that they have invested so much money and data into are no longer compatible on their new device. Apps don’t live on a widely used standard like music or photos. So anyone ready to take the plunge and switch ecosystems will find that they loose all their apps and a the data that comes with it. Not only is switching all of your devices to a new system very costly, but so too is switching to new apps.

Essentially, the rise of tech-osystems is inevitable, companies are pushing it like never before and consumers are infatuated with the benefits of having integrated systems. Unfortunately, unless the standards for app and data transfer open up, consumers may not realize that the ecosystem they are buying into now may be the only one they can ever use.

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Comments on: "The Rise of Tech-osystems" (6)

  1. Rick Bhardwaj said:

    Is it possible cell/tablet OSes will follow the same trends as PCs’ OSes used to? PCs followed this trend for a long time too, but eventually a few companies realized what could happen if they made things more switchable, made a bunch of money off it, then everybody just kind of kept switchability in mind- and PCs don’t follow do hardcore integration anymore.
    Maybe cells will be the same- they’ll go very much into this integration fad until somebody realizes the benefits and the market for doing de-integration.

  2. Olivier Fontenelle said:

    I totally agree but don’t you think that the gradual move to storing all data, applications etc… to the cloud will in a way eliminate this need for compatibility?

    When I look at Chrome OS for example, which is still in infancy, I tend to believe that eventually Windows will also move to a pure internet based OS, where customers will access applications online instead of on PCs. Full “Office Web Apps” in the cloud will replace your Excel and PowerPoint stored on your computer (enabling Microsoft to also move to a subscription pricing model for consumer and not only for enterprise customers).

    To me, it would make sense that over time, ecosystems will move closer and closer to each, only being differentiated by the hardware and UI, as application standards are set. I tend to think that what we’re seeing right now is the beginning of a change to a completely app based ecosystem and that in the future, it will be easier to move our stuff from device to device.

  3. Even if different companies do create divergent, non-compatible systems of devices, there’s still an economic incentive for, if not the big tech companies, then at least for others to create programs and hardware that integrates different devices with each other. If it becomes a tangible problem for a lot of people, then the market is going to teeter back another way.

  4. I don’t think it will become a tangible problem for a lot of customers. I think a majority of the people are content with using a complete, albeit lacking in some specialized functions, integrated OS ecosystems across multiple devices as long as they get what they want to get done, which ultimately is up to the individual programs and websites. Needless to say, software companies recognize the need for multi-platform compatibilities for their software so it’s not going to be especially annoying to the customer that he/she has to stick with Apple or Microsoft.

  5. Great piece and all so true! HTML 5 and the move away from platform specific apps… Apple will never buy into this tho, all the fans will hold tight. MS is moving in this direction opening up to Java and HTML… whoever sees it first and markets it right will have a huge lead. Interchangeable file formats still live… it will be the movies and music that will trip the whole experience up. Where business fails to meet user needs in their own vain.

  6. [...] a side note, Sony also made some points about tying in PSNetwork features, pushing its developing ecosystem, which I currently don’t have any investment [...]

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