Gadget Ecosystem Review
Over the past few years, I’ve been watching the evolution of gadget ecosystems emerging in a race to attract customers. These ecosystems consist of gadgets designed to work together to bring the user a unified computing experience. Today, there are 4 main players – Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.
This is my quick, down and dirty review. It looks at desktop/laptop options, tablet options, smartphone options, smartwatch options, streaming media devices, cloud storage, compatibility with other ecosystems, marketplace, and price.
There are two main features that these companies have in common. Each sells multiple types of devices that sync/connect through software created by that company. Second, each hosts a centralized marketplace selling apps, music, video, and ebooks. No one ecosystem stands out better than the others, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
|Apple||iMac, Macbook Air||iPad, iPad mini||iPhone||coming soon||AppleTV||iCloud||iTunes||high|
|Microsoft||Many||Surface 3 and Other vendors||Several||Band||xBox||OneDrive||Microsoft store||mid|
|Chromebook||Several||Many||Several||Chromecast Stick and other vendors||GoogleDrive||Google play||mid-low|
|Amazon||None||Kindle Fire||Fire Phone||None||Amazon Fire TV||Amazon Cloud Drive||Amazon||low|
Apple – The Design Company
My wife has been a happy consumer of Apple products, owning an iPhone, iPad, iPod, and AppleTV. Apple is known for its excellent design and slick user interface, cultivating an intense fan base, and charging a premium in the process. It also contains a great app marketplace and mediocre software offerings. Their music, video, and book offerings are also good. And while Apple creates software that works well with their own devices, that software is not usually great.
Strengths – integrated ecosystem, great marketplace, eloquent design, tight device-software compatibility
Weaknesses – expensive, weak on some software offerings (like cloud storage), AppleTV is weak on apps, desktop/laptop software cannot be used on tablet/smartphone/TV, except for iTunes isn’t compatible with other ecosystems
Microsoft – Productivity and Gaming
Under Gates and Balmer, Microsoft developed an excellence in productivity and gaming, two my passions. That’s why I own and use a number of Microsoft products including the laptop I’m working on right now and a Windows Phone. Not to mention the xBox 360. Under their new CEO Nadella, Microsoft has sifted its emphasis to greater compatibility between the ecosystems. With Microsoft’s OS changes, software and apps may be better able to traverse the ecosystem of devices, filling one of their major weaknesses. Their phones are good, but just lack apps.
Strengths – integrated ecosystem, strong productivity emphasis, Lots of free storage, strong gaming platform, renewed emphasis on playing well with others
Weaknesses – poor app marketplace (making the phone and tablet difficult sells), no ebook marketplace, changing or confusing naming conventions,
Google – Engineering Excellence
Back in 2009, I attempted to use all of Google’s software options and did so pretty successfully for a number of years, including an android phone. They have some cloud solutions. At the time, I moved away from them because of lack of integration between options. They have made big strides in closing that lack of integration, but still have lots of room for improvement. Google has also manged to license their android OS to lots of devices manufacturers, leading to a multitude of smartphone, smartwatch, smartTV, and tablets options.
Strengths – Lots of options, technical excellence for individual products, great app marketplace
Weaknesses – not as well-integrated, Chromebook does not have much software
Amazon – Entertainment Consumption
Amazon is working a different angle in the ecosystem genera. They are not interested in developing desktops or smartwatches. Their primary interest is to develop devices and software for consuming content, preferably Amazon purchased content. This they accomplish very well and at very low-cost. As an Amazon Prime member, I found great synergies with purchasing Kindle Fire tablets for my kids. I’m even tempted to purchase the Amazon Fire TV.
Strengths – great for consuming entertainment, integrates well across devices and with Amazon prime, low prices
Weaknesses – no desktop options (although it does have software for the desktop) or smartwatch, smartphone option not that good
Best of Breed
Of course, you may not want to commit to just one technology ecosystem, but rather adopt the best of the best. And certainly there are ways to do this and do it well. But the work to research, setup, and maintain such a setup requires a significant effort. Because Apple tends to be more closed across the board, it is harder to blend with the other ecosystems. Amazon has descent software solutions, but lacks the variety in devices. Google was built from the ground up to be more open and lends itself well to playing within other ecosystems. Microsoft, with their recent change in direction, is becoming more so as well.
Because the integration across devices is so young, the industry has not matured around standards or common methods of communicating (other than Internet technology). What will work best for you will largely vary, but the industry will likely see lots of innovation around trying to capture and keep users within the very lucrative ecosystem market. It will likely include more wearable technology, easier integration, better standards, more cloud services, and richer user experience. Hopefully, we’ll all enjoy the outcomes.