I think its fairly clear the direction we’re all headed. The movers & shakers of our generation, whether we love them or hate them, are busy at work creating competing information/media/communication ecosystems for us to live in.
Want to access the internet? Microsoft has IE running off Windows, Apple has Safari running off Mac OSX and Google has Chrome which, for now, is just running off Windows but will eventually run off of everything.
How about doing work? Google Docs are 24/7 networked up-time, Microsoft Office has a lot more bells and whistles but you pay a pretty penny for this stand-alone product. And Apple’s iWork is just prettier.
Big on entertainment? Apple’s iTunes has cornered the music market and offers some of the best webcasts, games & apps in a sweet GUI. Add to that Apple TV and all these goodies can be accessed not just on your computer but in your livingroom too. Microsoft’s Xbox attacks the entertainment question from the gaming angle, but with MMO and SecondLife-like Avatar capability now the norm, interactive communication is a readily available function available on your bigscreen tv. Xbox’s next iteration will see Blu-Ray player capabilities, and its cooperation with Netflicks brings a mountain of new content. Google has YouTube. And as it inks more syndication agreements for YouTube content, it spreads its net wider. Even now, record labels and broadcast networks are sweetening to the YouTube platform as ad revenues start coming in. YouTube has become today what MTV was for the MTV generation.
With Apple’s domination of mobile music with iPod and pioneering of mobile digital communications with iPhone, the digital ecosystem continues to extend. Microsoft is fighting an increasingly uphill battle with the Windows Mobile Platform, and its Zune, while the first in its product segment to boast Wi-Fi capabilities, far trails Apple’s iPod. Google has gotten into the mobile game in a paradigm-shifting way with the open source Android platform a year ago. Now with the T-Mobile G1 phone, or any of the other new Android phones coming out in 2009 from Huawei, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, Google is on its way to being a household name for mobile devices.
So catering to your whole digital life, Microsoft, Google and Apple have each created separate digital ecosystems for you to inhabit. Whether its on your desktop, laptop, in your livingroom with your big-screen TV or out-and-about with your mobile device, these three digital giants have some product to keep you linked into their domain.
These three are building their digital ecosystems in different ways though. Microsoft, coming from a long heritage of selling installation-based software maintains the philosophy that the device doesn’t matter, but a digital ecosystem is all about a software ecosystem. Albeit, Microsoft has made forays into devices with the Zune and Xbox, with fair success. In part, Microsoft has seen the success of Apple’s approach. Apple maintains the philosophy that a digital ecosystem is derived from the complete user experience in a hardware-software bundle. As a closed system with high standards and high focus on the User Interface both virtual and real, Apple has produced hit after hit and everyone is taking notice. The closed system also makes Apple’s ecosystem particularly sticky with things like DRM in addition to general design appeal. Selling these hardware-software bundles at a premium price, you’re literally ‘buying into’ Apple’s ecosystem. Finally, Google’s philosophy is similar to Microsoft’s, in that the digital ecosystem should be primarily software, and should be run/accessed from any device regardless who made it. Where Google differs from Microsoft is that instead of selling installation-based software like Microsoft, Google’s ecosystem is web-based with little or no download/installation required and -even more shocking- Google is offering its ecosystem for FREE. Google’s ecosystem is powered by ad dollars.
Three digital ecosystems, one selling installation software, one selling hardware-software bundles, and one offering free use of software hosted online while making money from some other guy.
Which ecosystem will we eventually find ourselves in? Is there room for more than one?
Well, its a question of screen size.
Read it here in Part II.