Digital Ecosystems

December 13, 2013 • Technology

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You check your emails on Microsoft’s Hotmail service, note an appointment in Microsoft’s Calendar application, share a file on Microsoft’s Skydrive cloud storage system, check out where the nearest Italian restaurant is on Microsoft’s Bing Maps service, decide to stay in and check out a pasta recipe on Microsoft’s Bing search engine, accessed through Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser, on Microsoft’s Windows operating system on a Microsoft Surface device.

Microsoft Windows Convergence - The same operating experience across 3 devices

Microsoft Windows Convergence – The same operating experience across 3 devices

 

On the 2nd of September, 2013, Microsoft announced it would be buying Nokia’s mobile manufacturing arm and licensing its mobile patents for 10 years, for $7 billion. Now Microsoft has bought Nokia’s manufacturing arm – throw in the Xbox consoles and the Xbox store – all of your computing, telephony and media needs are taken care of. Conceivably, there is no longer any need to leave Microsoft’s ecosystem. This situation is replicated to varying degrees with the other 2 big digital players; Google and Apple. The big 3 finally have their own self-contained eco-systems which once in, a user need never leave. In light of the acquisition, it seems like a perfect time to exam the rivalling ecosystems.

Google has dominated the web spectacularly in the last decade, providing a host of services. Google search, Gmail, Google Maps, Android phone operating system and more have all helped Google become the dominant internet and phone services provider. All they lack is a synchronised link between Android (a mobile OS for phones and tablets) and Chrome OS (their computer operating system).

Apple has the benefit of an operating system (like Microsoft) that works on all 3 devices: traditional computers, tablets and phones. It also provides services such as email and mapping whilst their search service, Siri, is a front end for multiple search engines, meaning they don’t have to provide a search service per se.

Apple's software syncs through Macs, iPads, iPhones and iPods

Apple’s software syncs through Macs, iPads, iPhones and iPods

This lack of a native search engine looks not to be such a problem as search evolves. Instead of providing a reactive list of search results like traditional search engines do, Siri, like Google Now, gives proactive suggestions aided by other data such as location.

Crucial to each ecosystem is the cloud storage; the glue that binds each system to its constituent parts. Windows has Skydrive, Apple has iCloud and Google has Google Drive – this way the information on your devices can be synced without the need for physical connections.

The benefit for the consumer is clear – seamless syncing and sharing of information across a unified system that looks and feels familiar. But the benefit to the corporations is clearer still – all of a user’s information in one place, information they can use to better target marketing and advertising. Better still, money spent on devices goes directly to the respective ecosystem, Apple sells its ecosystem of Apple branded products, Nokia produced the lion’s share of Windows Phone devices anyway whilst Android bought up Motorola in May 2012 for in-house manufacture.

Google's Android - Android is currently only mainstream on phones and tablets

Google’s Android – Android is currently only mainstream on phones and tablets

Of the numerous upcoming mobile OS’s, there are a few which arguably have a chance of becoming all-round OSs like the big 3. Amazon, using a forked version of Android, has released tablets and e-readers for direct access to the Amazon store, and plans on bringing out an Amazon phone in the near future. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, is planning on releasing Ubuntu Touch OS, an operating system for mobile phones, which is able to run the full version of the computer OS, when connected to a computer screen – bringing more truth to the phrase of ‘mobile computing’.

There seems a general trend toward in-house production in the digital sphere; Amazon and Netflix have both recently started to produce their own visual content, this is reflected in the big 3 phone OS companies making their own branded devices.  And with Google, Apple and Microsoft all on a huge run of acquisitions, natively replicating third party apps people use, there seems a good chance we may never need to leave our chosen ecosystem again.

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