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Monday, July 09, 2012

What's your "ecosystem mix"?

One of the most interesting big-picture trends in telecoms at the moment is what my colleagues at Telco 2.0 / STL Partners refer to as "The Great Game" (A historical reference to the Russian and British Empires' strategic struggles over control of Central Asia in the 19th Century).

Which of the various "ecosystems" will win the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers? Telcos, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and so forth are in the frame here. The empires concerned span access, devices, voice services, messaging, social networks, advertising, content, apps, payment mechanisms, customer data, authentication and more.

The more components in each ecosystem, the greater the potential for lock-in. Apple is hoping that iPhone owners will buy iPads and Macs - and use iCloud and other services. Android users are steered towards Gmail, Google Apps and perhaps even Chrome on the desktop. Mobile operators are hoping to maintain their role in voice telephony, and add social functions, content and payments. Facebook's reach is extending across the web and betond - most recently, even to owning sub-oceanic fibre.

Some people have already made their initial decisions - there are Apple fan-boys, Google enthusiasts, quad-play telecom subscribers and so forth. Others are adamant about which companies they want to avoid - for example, there are many Facebook refuseniks, as well as people whose only telco interface point is via a SIM and anonymous prepay top-ups.

Myself, I fall into the camp of "a plague of all your houses". I deliberately structure my use of technology and services to avoid becoming beholden to any one of these organisations. I don't want to be bombarded with adverts, I don't want to be locked-in to any platforms, and I certainly don't want complete profiles of my life being deduced by any analytics systems. Paranoia or just sensible precaution - who knows? I also don't want to become a digital recluse, so my answer is to use a "bit of everything".

In particular, I try to keep work & personal stuff separated, except through touchpoints such as Google Search or my home broadband. (Hmm.... maybe I should delete personal friends from LinkedIn to keep it "pure" and business-focused).

My basic premise is that I don't want any one provider to see or control more than 20-30% of my communications & Internet existence. This is one reason why I wouldn't have an Android phone, and if I'm using an iPhone why I wouldn't also want a Mac - and why Apple doesn't have my credit card details in  iTunes. Google for me is about search, maps, this blog and an Adwords account. I sign out when I can, and wouldn't touch G+ if you paid me (and the only reason I use G Docs is for communicating with clients who do pay me).

It's also why Disruptive Analysis doesn't "do" Facebook, why Twitter is strictly work-only, why I wouldn't use a mobile phone account to buy stuff, or ever sign up triple/quadplay services. It explains why I had to create a new random Microsoft Live account to test a Nokia Lumia. It's also why my main personal email is still a (paid!) Yahoo premium one. I get music from Spotify, VoIP from Skype, books from Amazon and happily use Paypal and credit cards for most online transactions.

Frankly, the best thing about the Internet is choice and divergence not convergence into monolithic ecosystems.

What about you? Have you sold your electronic souls to any one of the communications devils? Or are you determined to withhold "loyalty" until it's is actually earned? And am I lulling myself into a false sense of security?


Raman said...

I use Android, iPhone, iPad, AppleTV, Amazon for various things. I keep switching between browsers, Chrome, FF, Safari, Dolphin, Opera Mini etc The only place I see the ecosystem matters is when I purchase media like Movies, TV Shows and e-books. Unfortunately this is where I can't do much today, electronic media is really convenient.

Davide said...

Your behaviour is similar to mine. I try to not get locked-in in any particular platform. The problem is that it is much easier to enjoy new services if you keep yourself logged in Google/Facebook/Twitter/etc, just to make an example. It is faster to share a link with a friend/colleague if you are always logged in rather than sending manually an email and paste the link. Also, having an iPhone and a Mac makes the experience of sharing your private files among devices smoother. The price to pay for it is the loss of privacy and profiling. It seems the new generation of young people does not value that price so high. Is it because they are not aware of it or are they right in not caring too much? The answer is probably somewhere in between.

Anonymous said...

I do not want to be a digital recluse but I have been forced to because I even less want to be a prisoner of Apple or Google.
That's why I am waiting for Firefox OS to have a smartphone and use data in mobile for the first time. I would actually like Nokia producing devices with Firefox OS and forgetting about Windows, but I doubt that will happen.

I also avoid Amazon and Facebook as much as possible (not always possible).

But I recognize I qualify as paranoid since I have my Firefox browser set to private browsing always.