Winning the ecosystem war

Let’s face it. The word ‘ecosystem’ has always been a catchphrase in the world of technology. I find that particular apt now that the war for smartphones, tablet, phablet and pc seems to be heating up again as Apple appears to be losing ground with their sales figures.

Gone are the days where we use mobile phones to make ‘just’ a phone call. It is so much more a part of our lives. The ability to do so is functional features in an absolute perfect ecosystem that is seamless to the end user. You can  jam pack a mobile with the best features but if it fails to have a synergistic ecosystem that makes the end user feels effortless, it has failed.

What has been the shinning feature of Apple products beyond its design is the beautiful ecosystem powering the iphones and ipad. It has redefined smartphones and invented the tablet business for this generation. It’s simplistic design, revolutionary UI and perfect touch sensitivity has made smartphones a reality for day to day use. Prior to Apple, the other smartphones just failed in comparison. Competition find it hard to catch up as it was so out of box and so revolutionary that they had never thought of it much less compete against it.

Fast forward to a decade later, Apple is slowly perfecting its models and offerings (keyword being ‘slowly’) but allowing breathing room for companies like Google and Amazon to catch up. It has largely maintained its lead by innovating into the tablet market 3 years ago and for its first mover advantage. But that advantage is slowly eroding and more is needed.

The passing of Steve Jobs and management shakeup at Apple indicate a need for change and greater innovation to keep a healthy distance with its closest competitor Google and Amazon. To do so, it will need to perfect its mobile ecosystem. It is also the only company most likely to be able to do so, with a close second Amazon then Google. Strange you might think but I will explain.

Apple, unlike its competitors, has the most distinct advantage of an inclusive ecosystem relying on its own for hardware, software and service design. Some of the greatest mobile phone companies have been build on this model – think Nokia and Blackberry. It’s Hardware + iOS software + App store have been all geared towards providing a more seamless ecosystem that is transparent to the end user. That’s why it makes sense for its strategic move to end its partnership with Google and build the new Map software to keep the ecosystem inclusive. With that, it has the most advantage of providing the perfect mobile ecosystem as it slowly perfect all the pieces in its puzzle.

Some obvious gap it still needs to improve is its Maps but beyond that, its cloud backup system and new product offering to complement its existing product. Hence the rumor of Apple building an iwatch sounds plausible as it extends its footprint into our daily lives.

Now why do I consider Amazon a close 2nd and not Google to Apple? Amazon with its kindle is on the right mind set to provide an inclusive ecosystem. The hardware is an extension of its store and a delivery system to push entertainment services to its users while extending all other features applicable to a computer. It would be interesting to see how Amazon intend to push this to the mobile frontier.

Google, on the other hand with Android, is suffering from an identity crisis.It does not design its hardware, relying on companies like Samsung and LG to do so. Often, this cause a gap to the hardware – software synergy. In addition, it do not have a good way to deliver its mobile software in a systematic method causing multiple versions of Android with varying hardware specs in the market. Worst still is Google’s ability to integrate all its services with Android making it a waste. Think of the synergistic effect of a Google phone with the feature of iphone? It’s already 50% there. Google email vs Apple ID, Google Maps versus Apple Maps, Google Drive versus Apple Cloud and more… It is doing it via apps but it needs to integrate it more smoothly into Android that is as seamless as a button tap in Android. To do so, it must first find a wholistic method to unify its products and offerings thus leading back to the ecosystem of  providing product, software and service in a seamless way.

In conclusion, if Apple find an innovative way to dominate the mobile ecosystem and perfect it, we will be hard pressed to find a competitor that will come close to providing the impact it will achieve.