What are the weaknesses? In Google and Microsoft’s case quality control over hardware and their solution: build your own to steer everyone else’s. Notably the price/performance of the Nexus 7 was more an exercise in culling undesirable third parties than it was in making money. In Apple’s case it is Maps… no, not Apple Maps but licensing Google’s. Apple was acutely aware that with the mobile stakes so high Google could choose not to renew its licence agreement in 2013 and leave Apple floundering. Apple took a calculated risk that customer loyalty in 2012 could take the hit of evolving a replacement beta service in public. It may just about get away with it.
Of course the irony in this desperate rush for control is it comes off the back of success. Dissection of their platforms has become so intense because they are, for all intents and purposes, the last men standing. Timing, choices and billions of dollars has seen them trample the likes of Symbian, webOS and BlackBerry OS with Samsung’s Bada, Nokia’s SmarterPhone and RIM’s BlackBerry 10 struggling to justify their existence. The stakes have been raised sky high and once Microsoft kicks off its reported $1billion marketing campaign later this month for Windows 8 and its integration with Windows Phone 8 they will get even higher.
Furthermore what we are now seeing across PCs, tablets and phones will soon spread to the next battleground: our televisions. Apple and Google have already made significant plays and Microsoft’s determination to evolve the Xbox 360 into a media centre will have even greater follow-through with the anticipated Xbox 720 late next year. Will Apple take the control factor up another notch with an Apple television? In response would Google and Microsoft try to influence the styling of television manufacturers to better compete as they have done to mobile partners in response to the iPhone and iPad? Would they build their own? If Intel’s dictation of a laptop’s internals can suddenly see it lay down the law with Ultrabook styling perhaps the prevalence of Intel-equipped smart TVs could see it get involved too?
None of this takes into account the scrap for music, film, television and book rights either across iTunes, Google Play and the upcoming Windows Store. Again the fight for control is clear: we don’t want you buying your content from wherever you please, we want you to get it through ”us”. I suspect Amazon has something to say about that and when that battle becomes more heated will its reliance on an Android core at the heart of its Kindle Fire tablets put it in the same vulnerable position Apple felt it was in with mapping?
The good news amongst all this megalomania is it should result in ecosystems that reach new levels of quality, functionality and content availability. The bad news is once you go down the rabbit hole of one it may be incredibly hard to get back out…