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It's the ecosystem stupid

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Search the internet for Google’s Pixel Chromebook and you’ll see something very strange, reviewers absolutely love the device but recommend that consumers don’t buy it.

Why? What is going on here? Is this opposite-land? Why would a reviewer love a product then recommend you not buy it? It all comes down to ecosystem. In years past, the hardware was more important that the ecosystem (form over function). Now our perceptions and expectations have changed. As consumers, we understand that we are buying an entry ticket into an ecosystem.

When we see an incredibly beautiful, well designed terminal (like the Pixel) that only provides access to the very limited Google apps (and nothing else), we can admire its beauty but it is useless and certainly not worth the $1300 price tag.

We saw the same thing with the Nokia Lumia 920 which is a beautifully designed phone but flopped because it was powered by Windows Phone which has a small and insignificant ecosystem.

What is an ecosystem? It is all of the ancillary services and products you can use when buying a particular flavor of device. An iPhone is beautiful but worthless without apps and accessories. What really drives value for my iPhone is the million plus apps and the thousands of accessories I can buy to improve my usage experience (battery cases, lenses, fitness gear, etc).

Android has proven to be a valiant competitor to the iphone because it has managed to build an interesting ecosystem for its users. Even with Google’s might and the power of Samsung the giant, Android fragmentation has meant that the ecosystem [on Android] isn’t as big as the IOS one. By strictly controlling design and limiting device releases, Apple creates a huge pool of users per device which easily become profitable markets for accessory/ app makers.  This means consumers get more options per iPhone model than most Android devices (even the Samsung Galaxy S3).

This is why product like the Lumia 920 and Google Pixel aren’t well received. There will always be a core group of fanboys that will drink any coolaid but this small market isn’t highly profitable. This is why blackberry spent a lot of time and money to ensure it had 70,000 apps at launch. They wanted to show prospective customers that they had a healthy ecosystem. Blackberry understands that without this ecosystem, even a wonderful device is doomed for failure.

I am an iPhone user since 2007 and when I consider moving to Android, one of my major stumbling blocks is the huge investment I have made in the Apple ecosystem (particularly apps). I think the Samsung Galaxy SIV (S4) or the next Google Nexus will be incredible devices that I will likely want but having to re-buy all my apps in another ecosystem is something that will hold me back (unless the next iPhone is a dud). I am convinced Google would win many iPhone users if it offered some kind of trade-in program.