The addictiveness of closed eco systems or what Amazon should learn from Apple
16th November 1 Comment
My more engaging involvement with the ebook industry, an article titled “Why Software Is Eating The World” and the recently published biography of Steve Jobs I read pointed my attention to the addictiveness of closed eco systems in the age of digitalisation.
It seems as if the charm of controlling an eco system is just too great so that even today players like Amazon can’t resist. But let’s take a step back and have a look at what are great examples of closed approaches that could not stand up to their open rivals.
Story one: In the early computer age Apple was the first company delivering a PC, in particular the MAC with a graphical interface to control the operating system. Even though Apple was more than just inspired by Xerox, actually the real inventor of graphical computer interfaces, they managed to execute well and enter a pioneer role in terms of operating systems. Following this it would have been easy to make MAC OS the operating system on all PCs including the ones IBM and other hardware manufacturers, then just about to start their productions, brought to the market. But instead of opening the software to work on other hardware as well, Apple and in particular Steve Jobs, insisted to only ship software bundled to hardware. This way Apple would be in charge and control the whole eco system.
Well, Microsoft jumped in, developed Windows being compatible to all kind of computer hardware. Even though it was (and from my point of view still is) much worse than Mac OS, we all know that Bill Gates became the richest person on earth.
Story two: In 2007 Apple reinvented the phone. They actually set the standard for the age of the smartphone and defined how a phone has to work in the 21st century. Bundled with it there was the iPhone OS ready to be used by your fingertips. And again they closed it up and only wanted to deliver hardware bundled with the software. The clever guys at Google recognized this and started the open handset alliance that ultimately grew into Android. Today Android dominates the smartphone world in terms of quantity and devices supported. They even managed to extend this into the tablet world and are approaching the laptop world with Chrome OS. Well, Apple did great with the iPhone and all complementary components like Apps and so on. But imagine that they again could have been at the core of a whole device category.
So now let’s jump back to the present. You might ask yourself why I mentioned Amazon, the company that does so well with API and plattforming? The company that even chose Android to power it’s new Kindle Fire! Well, they actually dominate the digital world of eBooks and digital content so much that they locked up the same way Apple did. They will not support ePub3 as new standard for digital content but use a proprietary own standard, they are not letting you transfer your ebooks or content to other devices and they force you to purchase your content through the shops pre-installed on the devices they deliver and ultimately control. Amazon is building an own locked up eco system just as Apple did.