Apple wants to give you more choice. So does Google. And of course more choice is good right? At first bluss sure choice is what it’s all about and the big players offer us lots of choice but with a slight hitch. The choices they are offering are increasingly limited to their own ecosystems. Let’s call it the all or nothing offer. The upside is that it allows for a more fully integrated experience while offering steady improvements to the products. Using the power of the ecosystem model they provide a suite of closely integrated products that provides real benefits. Ranging from ease of use, to more intuitive and help resources and of course instant and constant updates. It sounds like a good deal and it mostly is. But over time what are the incentives for these corporations to really push to shot for innovation? The ecosystem approach ultimately stifles choice and pushes out competition. As competition is the life blood of innovation this likely isn’t a good thing for consumers.
As these two tech giants currently provide a fragmented basket of products, it leads to a mix and match approach to solutions for the user. One person uses Gmail and Safari, another iTunes and Google Docs and so on. The net result is a reduction in our dependence on one single platform. It’s that fragmentation Apple and Google want to eliminate. By upgrading and integrating their products more fully then offering them up from behind their ecosystem walls they hope to limit the competition and improve the user experience while strengthening their hold on the customer base.
Case in point is the latest announcements from Apple at WWDC 2014. Among the news Apple released is that they have beefed up Spotlight to include full Safari integration allowing augmented search out onto the web. Spotlight will also integrate with other key Mac OS apps such as iTunes, Calendar, Mail and Maps, acting in a more intuitive, suggestive way. The improvements to Spotlight will most certainly advance the Apple ecosystem experience so what’s not to like. It will also little by little squeeze out Google by baking in these added application features. The incentive to stay or join is all about enjoying the new features and their benefits. Another example of how tech giants are removing choice look no further than Adobe. They have aggressively moved to a subscription model for their products based on the premise that as a subscriber you get all the upgrades as they’re released and you never have to purchase an expensive software package or pay for those ongoing and costly updates. It’s a powerful incentive for you to subscribe to Adobe, a low cost of entry and all the latest bells and whistles. The short play is that it builds on an industry fear of obsolescence. In a competitive market the slippery slope of irrelevance is a very real concern. Ultimately Adobe will stop supporting older versions of it’s software effectively removing any choice the consumer used to have. It’s the all or nothing offer again.
As Apple and Google continue to unify their arsenals the user likely wins in the short term. In the long term it will limit choice and force us into making a much harder, much more complex “all or nothing” choice when considering the purchase of a new smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Follow Ted Blanchard on Twitter. Ted Blanchard is a Senior Creative Producer, Art Director and Design Practitioner. www.tedblanchard.ca