Choosing a phone, tablet or computer could be a bigger investment than you thought. Not only are you buying the product, you’re also buying into a tech ecosystem. And once you’re part of the club, how easy is to leave?
There was a time when technology firms were happy simply selling us their latest gadgets. That may still be true for some, but for tech titans such as Apple and Google, the real focus now is on getting us to buy into their whole ecosystem of related products and services.
These companies know that the big money isn’t in that single purchase, it’s in getting us to use, and pay for, their services over and over again. And when we say big money we’re not exaggerating – in 2013 the four main players (Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft) had combined annual revenues of more than $390bn. That’s almost double Ireland’s GDP.
Products and services in harmony
Whether you’re aware of it or not, most of us have already bought into one system or another. For example, if you own an iPad then you don’t simply have a tablet, you’re part of Apple’s world and can access a huge array of the brand’s interconnected services such as apps, email, music, movies, maps and much, much more.
This integration of products and services can offer significant benefits, especially if you have multiple devices. It makes it simple to back up photos, for example, and then view or share them using any compatible product. Your emails, instant messages and contacts can be seamlessly synced across your tablet, phone and laptop, while wirelessly streaming a video from your smartphone to your TV can be as simple as a couple of taps of a screen.
Attractive, but hard to leave
While ecosystems can make our lives easier, trying to switch between them can be incredibly frustrating. And although some services can be used on almost any device – for example, Amazon’s Kindle ebook app is available on Apple, Android and Windows devices – that’s far from typical. For example, if you buy a film through iTunes then you won’t be able to view it on a smartphone or tablet from another brand without resorting to a complicated workaround.
It’s not just films, music or ebooks you’ve bought that are affected, either. If you’ve paid for apps in one ecosystem, you’ll almost certainly have to buy them again to use them on a product from a different one.
Such restrictions may not be a concern for the casual user, and there are often third-party alternatives to the default services that work across multiple ecosystems – examples include Dropbox (cloud storage), Spotify (music) and Netflix (TV and film).
Despite these third-party services, you’ll still need to think carefully before investing heavily into one of the big tech brands – because the more you invest, the harder it becomes to leave.
Do you think tech ecosystems are making our lives easier? Which one have you chosen or are you juggling more than one?
Google (23%, 180 Votes)
Amazon (20%, 154 Votes)
Apple (19%, 145 Votes)
Microsoft (18%, 140 Votes)
None of the above (14%, 107 Votes)
Sony (7%, 52 Votes)
Total Voters: 441