Navigating the Mobile Landscape: Ecosystems #2

In the Navigating the Mobile Landscape: Ecosystems #1 article we’ve been talking about why Ecosystems and mobile devices.  The big question that many of you are probably asking is, “ok… so what’s the big deal?  Why do I care about this? What differences does it make if my gadget of choice is part of any kind of an ecosystem?” It’s a good question.  And actually, it’s something that I know many pundits and marketing mavens have been tossing around. Most people, the pundits and mavens included, don’t completely get it.

Let’s break it all down…

Why an Ecosystem Matters at All
Mobile devices that do nothing more than PIM and Sync Services are equivalent to PDA’s of unconnected times past (think back to 2002-2005 and Compaq/HP’s iPAQ line of personal organizers) or are equivalent to one of RIM’s various Blackberries.  While that may not be too bad in some people’s eyes, think about the issues that are currently plaguing RIM, connectivity and outdated architecture aside.

As you may recall, we briefly touched on an ecosystem containing the following:

  1. PIM,
  2. Sync Services
  3. Purchasing Options & Methods for
  • Multimedia Content

– Music,
– Movies,
– TV Shows, etc.

  • Apps
  • eBooks
  • Pictures
  • etc.,

While the PIM and Sync Services are common to all mobile devices today, let’s consider the Apple model again, as we examine the above list.  What’s common to everything in that list..?  Simply put – iTunes.

iTunes manages the PIM data and sync services. It provides a purchasing and organization method for all consumer content. Apple also provides tools to help developers create content and register it with iTunes so it can be sold. This ecosystem is so simple to work with many developers can top 6-figure revenue marks in under 12 months, given the right product subject matter and type. This “no-brainer” product development model saw many developers leaving other, well established SDK’s for iOS development over the past few years.

But that’s been Apple’s model – build the complete solution, for consumers as well as developers – make it easy for them to live within the defined boundaries [of the ecosystem] and they will come. As I mentioned before, this is where the real money is, not in the hardware. Compatible hardware is simply enables the sale of consumer content.

What Amazon Did
Amazon did something similar, but they are trying to emulate, to an extent, what Apple has created by plugging the holes Google left in the ecosystem they created.  Google has the PIM and Sync Services; but doesn’t really have a trusted way to sell consumer content.  Amazon has had a way to sell music for years.  They have recently created a way to sell Android Apps. They’ve recently created a way to provide streaming movies and TV shows (via Amazon Prime). Their Kindle software provides a way to read and purchase eBooks.

I’ve been saying this for years – Amazon should concentrate on the sale of consumer content, not on selling hardware – to make their mark.  They actually did better than that, as the Kindle Fire is now poised to take the number 2 sales spot in the tablet market, but NOT because of the hardware. The Kindle Fire may take that spot due to the hardware sales, but it’s got the sales because of the kinds of content it supports, and what users can do with the device.

What Google Didn’t Do
Google may have a flagship phone in the Galaxy Nexus, but Samsung controls it; and they haven’t really enabled the new OS to do anything more than any other Android smartphone. Google doesn’t want to provide any type of specific experience, or control how you experience Android. They’ve built openness into the platform and have only recently chosen to address some of the holes with updates to Google Books, Google Music, etc.

What they haven’t done, though, is truly created the framework of the ecosystem for all of the OEM’s making and selling hardware. As such, there are a number of different launchers, like TouchWiz from Samsung and SenseUI from HTC. There are a number of different Android builds built into a number of different formats from tablets to smartphones to e-readers. The level of fragmentation that they have allowed by permitting OEM’s to choose from 5 different OS revisions (Éclair, FroYo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich) and their acknowledgement of their lack of revision control is staggering. By permitting 5 different OS revisions to be actively used at the same time, creates a great deal of variation and compatibility issues with applications in the Android Market.

While they may have the lion share of the handheld market, Google’s Android is floundering, struggling for direction. It needs Google to step up and define that direction in order to bring solidity and stability to the platform. If they truly want to beat Apple at their own game, this is what they need to do. Period.

Come back next time, and we’ll try to figure out where the heck Microsoft is in all of this.

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