It really is all about the ecosystem

I am in the process of replacing my smartphone – a Samsung Galaxy Note. When I started to consider quite seriously to change to the iPhone 5, something really hit home: it is all about the ecosystem. This manifested itself on two levels: the app ecosystem and the device ecosystem.

App ecosystem

Besides having a Samsung Galaxy Note, I own an iPad (2nd gen) and MacBook (5th gen). This means I am pretty much divided between the Android and iOS platforms in terms of hardware.

That being said, when it comes to actual device usage, I am much more reliant on my smartphone for the things I do. As a result I am more generous in terms of app purchases on my smartphone than on my iPad and, in that sense, I am much more embedded in the Android ecosystem.

However, when I looked at which apps I use most, I see they are often times free. At the moment I have 53 apps installed and 9 are paid-for apps. Of these 9, I know there are free alternatives to get me going. I have bought many more than 9 apps, but in a sense they are quite disposable (home screen replacements, weather apps, twitter apps, music players, etc.).

Add to this that the Apple App Store has the widest selection of apps and, in general, the quality of the iOS apps is high.

As a result I would consider switching platforms for my smartphone, even though I have spend more than 100 euros in apps on Android, provided the new platform offered a wide enough and good enough app ecosystem.

Device ecosystem 

When I considered whether to buy the iPhone 5 as my next smartphone, there were other very important considerations. Although it is possible to have your different devices on different platform, there is no denying that having it all on the same platform has clear advantages:

  • The thought of being able to use my (universal) apps across devices (iPhone and iPad) was very compelling, particularly when the app experience on each was tailored to the specific form factor.
  • Furthermore, the thought of having a system of a laptop, tablet and smartphone all linked to each other through iCloud sounded extremely interesting. Indeed, I found myself prepping the iCloud set-up (which I had never even looked at before) and getting into the Apple apps, like Mail, Calendar, Messaging, etc without having even bought the iPhone 5.

Clearly, buying the iPhone 5 would make me use my laptop and tablet much more, as all of a sudden everything would be linked.

So what?

None of this is very revealing in and off itself. However, when we think of Microsoft and what they are trying to do with Windows/Windows Phone, it gives us some interesting clues.

First of all, Microsoft needs to continue beefing up their App Store in order to ensure people consider the Windows ecosystem a viable alternative to iOS and Android. Microsoft is good at working with developers and they have deep pockets, so I think this is only a matter of time.

Secondly, Microsoft has a good play with Windows (Phone) 8. Many consumers will upgrade at some point in the next two years to a Windows 8 laptop or PC (or even a tablet). This may also make them more inclined to consider a WP 8 smartphone when the time comes to replace the current phone/smartphone. However, in order to make this second aspect as compelling as possible, I feel that universal apps (that will work across the different devices) will be quite important.

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